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A Family Affair

A Family Affair, Greasy Joan & Company, at the Chopin Theatre. Out struts an impertinent young woman in a girdle who declares, “Death is terribly unfashionable at the moment.” So begins this dense, self-indulgent, but visually enchanting production of Alexander Ostrovsky’s 1850 comic drama, adapted by Nick Dear. The young woman, the daughter of a […]

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Bee-Luther-Hatchee

Bee-Luther-Hatchee, Northlight Theatre. “Is the writer more important than the words?” asks playwright Thomas Gibbons in this folksy, precious examination of race relations and cultural covetousness (the title refers to a place worse than hell). Shelita Burns is a successful publisher with an award-winning hit–a memoir by the elderly Libby Price (Penelope Walker), who was […]

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Egyptian Rat Screw

Egyptian Rat Screw, Uffish Theater Company, at the Chopin Theatre. Carl Jung, Karl Marx, and an iron maiden walk into a bar–that’s the rumpled punch line of Chicago playwright Jason M. Lindner’s overwritten, underdeveloped dark comedy. Elton (Brendan Farley) is a young interrogator ordered to torture information out of revolutionary musician Vic Bloom (Michael T. […]

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Betty’s Summer Vacation

Betty’s Summer Vacation, Roadworks Productions, at Victory Gardens Theater. In his latest play, Christopher Durang skewers voyeuristic reality TV: rambling and one-dimensional but occasionally insightful, Betty’s Summer Vacation is equal parts Big Brother, Hustler, and The Truman Show. Its philosophical flaws are as outrageous as its undisciplined story: a group of contemptible oversexed people, including […]

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Sybilization

Sybilization, at the Playground. Why would you turn an intermediate-level improv class into a full-length show and charge admission? True, the seats will probably be filled by the performers’ friends, family, and coworkers, but I’m not sure who else would want to see this evening of labored comedy. A variation on the Harold, the Sybil […]

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Ready for the World

Young Playwrights Festival Pegasus Players By Erik Piepenburg The four works in Pegasus Players’ 15th annual Young Playwrights Festival bring to mind not so much the devil-may-care attitudes of a generation suckling furiously at the teat of prosperity, as you might imagine at a time when not giving your teenager a cell phone and his […]

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The Good Thief

The Good Thief, NorthSide Productions, at Breadline Theatre. Fans of Conor McPherson, the overrated young playwright whose precious The Weir is getting star treatment at Steppenwolf, are being offered another chance to marvel at his chatty self-indulgence with the midwest premiere of The Good Thief, a one-man show of incidental proportions. An Irish thug reminisces […]

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Simple Songs

Enter the Guardsman Northlight Theatre By Erik Piepenburg No matter how you roast Ferenc Molnar’s 1910 play The Guardsman, it was an old chestnut in its first incarnation and remains one today, in the nutty 1996 musical adaptation Enter the Guardsman. In the syrupy-sweet story, an actor (David New) puts his actress wife (Hollis Resnik) […]

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The Spirits Are Weak

The Weir Steppenwolf Theatre Company By Erik Piepenburg “The willingness to believe stories about . . . encounters with angels and other miraculous occurrences is considered a mark of enlightenment,” writes social critic Wendy Kaminer with a skeptic’s sneer in her book Sleeping With Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety. “These are […]

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Cabaret

Here’s hoping the immensely talented cast of this touring production shine as brightly in Chicago as they did when I saw them in Cleveland a few weeks back. British director Sam Mendes, who nabbed an Oscar for last year’s probing but overrated American Beauty, also deservedly garnered four Tony awards for this excellent revival, whose […]

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Private Eyes

Private Eyes, Sliced Bread Productions, at the Acme Theater. Steven Dietz’s deeply flawed black comedy gets a blemished once-over in Sliced Bread’s sincere but emotionally hollow production, which wastes a terrifically talented cast. Using the device of a play within a play within a play, Dietz recounts in often confusing terms the story of Matthew […]