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The Alchemy of Tulips

THE ALCHEMY OF TULIPS, Ravenous Productions, at the Storefront Theater. Writer-director Joseph Ravens uses dance, text, and screen images to tell the story of a 17th-century market disaster in Holland caused by speculation in tulip bulbs–a sort of tulips.com phenomenon. This seemingly dry economic event provides some beautiful themes and tales: Ravens makes the tulip […]

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An Infinite Ache

AN INFINITE ACHE, Living Moments Theatre, at the Viaduct Theater. People of many ages should identify with David Schulner’s Cliffs Notes version of the decades-long relationship between Charles (Jason Glick, who also directs) and Hope (Katherine Keberlein). Glick nimbly executes Schulner’s high-speed approach in his staging, marking the passage of a few days or several […]

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The Soul Cages

THE SOUL CAGES, Tireswing Theatre, at the Loop Theater. Adapting a folktale is tricky. While a simple story can provide a good read, good theater relies on conflict, character development, and strong relationships. Tami Zimmerman Henry’s adaptation of Thomas Crofton Croker’s story of a fisherman who befriends a Merrow–the merman Coomara–is respectable but not inspiring. […]

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Robert Mitchum Hangs Out At Dunkin’ Donuts

ROBERT MITCHUM HANGS OUT AT DUNKIN’ DONUTS, Another Chicago Theater Company, at the Breadline Theatre Laboratory. The youthful characters in writer-director Paul Barile’s world premiere face big decisions about marriage, career, and sexual preference. The focus is on Casey (Katie Hammond), who has prewedding jitters. Should she marry beer-swilling attorney George when Bobby’s bulging biceps […]

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Over The Tavern

OVER THE TAVERN, at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. For good and ill, Tom Dudzick’s play about a 1950s working-class Catholic family resembles a two-and-a-half-hour sitcom. Well-worn grievances are rehashed, most related to nuns brandishing rulers and threatening hellfire for oversleeping on Sunday or (saints preserve us) having impure thoughts. Precocious kids mug and crack wise […]

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Paramount Girl

PARAMOUNT GIRL, Live Bait Theater. After giving Elvis his first on-screen kiss and being touted as “the next Grace Kelly,” starlet Dolores Hart chucked it all to join a convent, despite the pleadings of her fiance and an aggressive movie mogul. In Sue Cargill’s fictionalized account of this true story, Hart (Alexandra Blatt) works through […]

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The Underpants

It’s 1910, and scandal erupts when a German housewife’s underpants drop during a royal parade, enraging her straight-arrow husband and intoxicating two gentlemen, who rent a spare bedroom in the couple’s apartment to be nearer to the unwitting temptress. After a successful Chicago run last fall, Noble Fool Theater Company has exported this production of […]

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Staggering Toward America

STAGGERING TOWARDS AMERICA, at the Athenaeum Theatre. In this one-man show, scruffy, affable Rik Reppe shares recollections of a road trip he took after September 11, 2001, hoping to reconnect with America. It turns out his path was marked by the kindness and simple patriotism of strangers: old Armenians banging a table at McDonald’s to […]

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Blue Nativity

Blue Nativity, Quest Theatre Ensemble. If nothing else, this 30-minute mini pageant gets credit for being the only one of some 35 seasonal shows here to actually feature the birth of Christ. Against a simple backdrop of blue fabric–portable, to accommodate Quest Theatre’s travels to churches all over Chicagoland and Indiana–ten performers reenact highlights of […]

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Roasting Chestnuts: Gina Bell Rock/The Swordsmen’s Holiday Spectacular!

Roasting Chestnuts: Gina Bell Rock, Noble Fool Theater Company, and The Swordsmen’s Holiday Spectacular!, Noble Fool Theater Company, at Pheasant Run Resort & Spa. In the tradition of the peppy holiday TV special, state fair headliner Gina Oswald (Patricia Musker) belts out Christmas classics old and new backed by a glittering, crooning ensemble. However, as […]

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The Lady Troubles

The Lady Troubles, Triplette, at the Playground Theater. This debut sketch-comedy revue by Rebecca Fox, Laura Grey, and Heather Simms combines playful observations on a variety of mostly female subjects with the slaphappy energy of a slumber party. Though the show lacks the biting commentary you might expect from a production purporting to look at […]

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, ShakespeareInc Theatre, at Chicago Actors Studio. This production of Shakespeare’s early comedy about two boyhood friends–Valentine, who risks his career to run away with the boss’s daughter, and Proteus, who tries to win her for himself, sacrificing friendship and his own true love–is set in 1950s America. The 16th-century class […]

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Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky, Tireswing Theatre, at Lakeshore Theater. Playwrights Tami Zimmerman Henry and Andrew Lines have turned Lewis Carroll’s classic poem (“‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves…”) into a quest story: a youth pursues the mythical Jabberwock to rescue his kidnapped sister and prove his manhood. The audience decides which roads young Grunderoyglaban (Brian Clements) will take […]