Second City's Twist Your Dickens Credit: Liz Lauren

A Christmas Carol: An Evening of Dickensian Delights Rachel Martindale’s 80-minute adaptation of Dickens’s revered novella is stripped to its essentials, as is Fury Theatre’s bare-bones staging, which Martindale directs and stars in. Jettisoning high production values (the set is two changing screens and a plain bench; the lighting effects are “on” and “off”), Martindale focuses almost entirely on Dickens’s florid language and hypnotic imagery. She and her two costars tell the story with candor and simplicity, much as your extroverted friends might at their annual holiday party. Some of the stage conventions are decidedly wonky (actors are perpetually ducking behind the tiny screens to “change characters” when all they’re typically doing is donning a new hats or scarves), but hearing the story without the typical overworked theatrical trappings is refreshing. —Justin Hayford

The Comedy Roast of Mr. ScroogeCredit: Courtesy Chicago Theater Works

The Comedy Roast of Mr. Scrooge A generously lubricated group of stand-ups get blue for the holidays in this late-night set at Chicago Theater Works. Half in and half out of character, the Cratchit family and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future take turns reading Ebenezer Scrooge and one another in the most unabashedly taboo ways possible. The infusion of fiction works better than you might think; combined with superficial observations about the performers, the Dickens characters’ backstories effectively double each comics’ material. It’s a concept that holds promise even if the execution of this year’s iteration overshoots the runway a bit. —Dan Jakes

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeCredit: Joan Marcus

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time It’s been so long since I’ve seen a Broadway touring show dare to be disagreeable (intentionally so, anyway) that I’d forgotten such a thing was possible. Sure, some, like Once or Fun Home, have their dark quirks and traumas. But Marianne Elliott’s staging of this Simon Stephens play—adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon—goes further, pushing unrelentingly at times to reproduce the disorientation suffered by an autistic teen, Christopher, as he attempts to cope with a series of shocks. We get loud, harsh noises; bright, harsh lights; unparseable messages shooting by us; and at one point a near-literal explosion of language. Yet we’re also shown the mechanisms by means of which Christopher harnesses his disability for the work at hand. More, we’re allowed to empathize as his nominally normal parents do some coping of their own. The Curious Incident is to some extent a detective story, but, like all the best whodunits, its real subject is the mind of the detective. —Tony Adler

Godspell This sweet, unpretentious revival of Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak’s 1971 folk-rock musical adapted from the New Testament (specifically the parables in the Books of Matthew and Luke) began as a student production last May at Carthage College. Now, in a professional incarnation from new company Red Crescendo and directed by Dan Brennan, it retains the fresh-faced, ensemble feel of a heartfelt college production. Some of the acting is rough, and not all of the singing is virtuosic, but the production, performed to guitar, keyboard, and simple percussion, is moving, sincere, and bursting with life. Christian Aldridge and Alex Johnson are standouts as, respectively, Jesus and John the Baptist/Judas. Three days later the show was still stuck in my head. —Jack Helbig

Promethean Theatre Ensemble’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar WildeCredit: Tom McGrath

Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde The defamation lawsuit Oscar Wilde brought against the Marquess of Queensbury in 1895 resulted later that year in Wilde’s own imprisonment, with hard labor, for “gross indecency,” a euphemism for homosexuality. Moisés Kaufman’s theatrical rendition of these proceedings, here staged by Promethean Theatre Ensemble, is essentially a dossier of excerpts from Wilde’s trial transcripts and subsequent documents. Wilde comes across as a martyred Christ figure, his incomparable aphorisms transformed into ringing platitudes of inclusivity. As righteous indignation swells in our throats, though, something embarrassing happens: Wilde insists, in quotation after quotation, that moral grandstanding has no place in art. And yet the play itself is as emphatically a piece of moral grandstanding as you’ll find. Ill conceived and drearily acted, it violates all the canons of Wilde’s art in the noble cause of educational theater. —Max Mailer

E.D.G.E. Theatre’s A Klingon Christmas CarolCredit: Angela Davis Couling

A Klingon Christmas Carol If you don’t know what Klingon is, this is not the show for you. But if you’ve ever crossed paths with Captain Kirk or Captain Picard, this is an incredibly unique take on a holiday classic. Written by Christopher Kidder-Mostrom and Sasha Warren and directed John Gleason Teske for E.D.G.E. Theatre, this is the first play to be performed entirely in hilariously guttural Klingon, a constructed language that first appeared in Star Trek. The story is an appropriately violent and courageous Klingon adaptation of the Dickens tale, with miserly main character SQuja’ receiving a ghostly visit from his deceased partner MarlI’ and harrowing glimpses of his past, present and future. As the Vulcan narrator, Aly Grauer is the perfect deadpan foil to the boisterous Klingon cast. —Marissa Oberlander

Lyric Opera’s The Magic FluteCredit: Todd Rosenberg Photography

The Magic Flute Lyric Opera’s new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute puts a baby-boomer frame on the 225-year-old singspiel (opera with spoken dialogue) while keeping the libretto and enchanting score intact. The conceit is that a bunch of kids are staging the opera in a “typical” (if idyllic) suburban backyard in mid-20th-century America, with their neighbors as both cast members and audience. The set consists of a life-size two-story house that revolves on Lyric’s giant new turntable; Snow White and other Disney shows are major design influences. This could get too cute in a hurry, but it all works, thanks to director Neil Armfield’s clever use of a large, talented cast that includes kids and dogs along with divas like Christiane Karg as Pamina, the princess in distress, and Kathryn Lewek as her malicious mom, the Queen of the Night. Matthew Polenzani will replace Andrew Staples as Prince Tamino for the last seven performances. In German with surtitles, but this production is so American, they should be doing it in English. —Deanna Isaacs

The Artistic Home’s Miracle on 34th Street: A Radio PlayCredit: Yeva Dashevsky

Miracle on 34th Street: A Radio Play If you love the classic 1947 movie, you’ll enjoy this radio-play version of Miracle on 34th Street, in which a little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa encounters the real deal, a fill-in for a drunk Claus at Macy’s. Not only does her jaded divorced mother fall in love, but he gives the girl what she most dreams of—a house in Long Island. That all this transpires in under six weeks is better not pondered, and the same goes for the rather dark subplot (considered delusional, Santa is committed to Bellevue and, later, put on trial). But of course, this isn’t meant for cultural analysis; it’s a feel-good holiday story celebrating those essential intangibles: love, hope, and happiness ever after.
—Suzanne Scanlon

Screw It: Doin’ Time on the LineCredit: Juan Fernandez

Screw It: Doin’ Time on the Line In 1998, when Tim Campos started working at a Ford Motor Company plant in Saline, Michigan, you might go nuts on the assembly line but you’d at least be well compensated for it. By the time he left Ford—in 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession—sales were down and the smarter employees were taking buyouts. Campos’s 60-minute autobiographical monologue offers a shop-floor view of those years of dysfunction and disintegration, covering colleagues like Lurch and Skeletor, “Ford cocktails” made with vodka and Gatorade, elaborate system-gaming techniques, and the peculiar culture of what Campos variously characterizes as a prison, a bazaar, and a metal-roofed city where workers do the “blue-collar dance” of putting together Lincoln Continental dashboards, for instance, at the rate of one every 44 seconds. A good deal of what he shows us is as ugly as it is funny. But under Antoine McKay’s direction, it’s always vivid and engaging. —Tony Adler

E.D.G.E. Theatre’s Steampunk Christmas CarolCredit: Angela Davis Couling

Steampunk Christmas Carol The thinking goes that at least one person, or one thing, is about to go through some sort of conversion whenever you stumble upon a Christmas-related performance. None of them is perhaps more famous than Ebenezer Scrooge, the old miser of Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. To be sure, that still holds true in E.D.G.E. Theatre’s steampunk version, which sees Scrooge living among robots and new-age machines. If we’re being honest, though, nothing about this little wrinkle adds anything especially novel; Scrooge is a grump, the ghosts are the ghosts, and the outlook for Tiny Tim isn’t good. But I would see this show again for its performers, all of whom charm. —Matt de la Peña

The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens, at the Goodman TheatreCredit: Liz Lauren

Twist Your Dickens If you’ve been inside a theater this month, you’ve noticed that softheaded sentimentality of the sort few could stomach during the rest of the year is not only expected but cheered. Apply an ounce of skepticism to the calculated onslaught of simulated “Christmas spirit” and you’re a Grinch. So it’s no surprise my blackened heart grew three sizes when Jacob Marley’s ghost first appeared in this Goodman/Second City Christmas Carol parody, and all Scrooge could blurt out was “Fuck you!” Granted, the two-hour show goes on far too long, putting not only Dickens but A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, the Rankin-Bass Rudolph, TV commercials, and Hollywood producers in the crosshairs. But the top-shelf improvisers provide a welcome antidote to all the unavoidable Christmas-y bullshit around town. —Justin Hayford