Ho-Ho-Hos, Fa-la-las and Bless Us, Every Ones are always welcome, of course, but after eighteen months of shuttered playhouses, what many theatergoers this year want for Christmas are not just in-person performers staging indoor pageants reflecting the yuletide season, but shows exploring the kinds of topics ignored during those solitary days spent staring at screens.
Furthermore, these playgoers want to go OUT to be entertained—not just on a few nights, but jingling all the way through the recovery period from the morning after you-know-what to Martin Luther King's Birthday in mid-January. Masking up and flashing our vax/test-neg cards are a trifling inconvenience when compliance means we can look upon our friends' faces (the top parts, anyway) without being blinded by pixel-glare. Didn't we spend enough time huddling on the sofa at home last year?
Responding to audience pleas, actors, techs and ushers alike are unselfishly reducing their own family vacations in order to report to work, so that we can all enjoy the long-relinquished experience of sharing, in a single room, the spectacle of a real, live, in-the-moment PLAY.
SHOWS CONTINUING IN DECEMBER:
Pump Boys and Dinettes, Porchlight Music Theater at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, running through December 12. This country-music revue is no jukebox-oldies fest, but an original score evolving to reflect changing demographics in the Southern USA. Ticket details at www.PorchlightMusicTheatre.org
The Last Pair of Earlies, Raven Theatre, running through December 12. Joshua Allen's bittersweet tale of dreams deferred during the Great Depression reminds us that not every elopement launched in romantic fervor ends in happily-ever-afters. Ticket details at www.RavenTheatre.com
Bug, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, running through December 12. Its uncanny ability to re-shape itself in response to its audience's perspective renders Tracy Letts' early-career thriller still as immediate—and menacing—as when it first unnerved us at its premiere in 1996. Ticket details at www.Steppenwolf.org
God of Carnage, Aston Rep Theatre Company at the Edge Off-Broadway, running through December 12. Yasmina Reza's wry comedy proposes privileged parents persisting in self-righteous squabbling long after the children they profess to champion have come to a peaceful settlement. Ticket details at www.AstonRep.com
Her Honor Jane Byrne, Lookingglass Theatre, running through December 19. When Chicago's mayor moved into the notorious Cabrini-Green Projects for a brief stay in 1981, the news coverage ignored the effects of her ill-conceived enterprise on the indigenous residents—an oversight playwright J. Nicole Brooks now strives to correct. Ticket details at www.LookingglassTheatre.org
Lighthouses in the Desert, Glass Apple Theatre on the Schwartz Stage at Raven Theatre, running through December 19. Richard James Zieman follows in the steps of Lanford Wilson with this microcosmic fable of urban castaways confronted by encroaching homelessness. Ticket details at www.GlassAppleTheatre.com
SHOWS CONTINUING INTO JANUARY:
Sister Act, Mercury Theater, running through January 2. A would-be Pop Diva and a convent of intrepid nuns defeat a crew of lowlife gangsters amid a score of disco-era Philly-soul songs—how many upbeat endings can you pack into one musical? Ticket details at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com
Love Actually: The Unauthorized Musical Parody, Right Angle Entertainment at the Apollo Theatre, running to January 2. If the famous-name British romcom wasn't giddy enough for you by itself, look to this parody to take the fizziness factor even higher. Ticket details at www.LoveActuallyParody.com
When Harry Met Rehab, Don Clark Productions at the Greenhouse Theater Center, through January 30. Recovering addicts are often instructed to atone for their error, but sportscaster Harry Tienowitz chose as his penance co-authoring a play, featuring cast-against-type 80s-TV luminaries Dan Butler and Melissa Gilbert. Ticket details at www.WhenHarryMetRehab.com
8-Track, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, opening December 12 and running through January 23. The eclectic playlists of the 1970s bridged genres from the Carpenters to the Commodores, so if you find yourself remembering the words and waves to "YMCA" go ahead and sing along. Ticket details at www.Theo-u.com
A Recipe For Disaster, Windy City Playhouse at Petterino's, running through March 27. Chicago's pioneering wraparound-theater company presents a Food-Fads farce co-authored by superstar chowslinger Rick Bayless, featuring a site-specific production complete with snacks for the audience. Ticket details at www.WindyCityPlayhouse.com
I'm Not a Comedian...I'm Lenny Bruce, Theatre 68 at the Venus Cabaret, open run. Ronnie Marmo's solo show, in the intimate environment of the Mercury Theater's cabaret room, digs deep into the myth surrounding the cold war-era inventor of shock-yok satire. Ticket details at www.LennyBruceOnstage.com
Late Nite Catechism, Nuns4Fun Entertainment Inc. at the Greenhouse Theater Center, open run. After nearly three decades, this gently humorous (but never blasphemous) memoir of Catholic culture in America continues to promote inquiry among audiences of every creed. Ticket details at www.GreenhouseTheaterCenter.com
SHOWS OPENING EARLY IN 2022:
Wellesley Girl, Compass Theatre at Theater Wit, opening January 7. In the future, says playwright Brendon Pelsue, we will all be Members of Congress—now that's a scary thought! Details at www.CompassTheatre.org
Collected Stories, Redtwist Theatre, opening January 9. Mentors and acolytes both know how their relationship must end someday, but the path of succession is never an easy one. Details at www.Redtwist.org
The Moors, A Red Orchid Theater, opening January 15. This cloistered ensemble's snug lair hidden amid the posherie of Old Town welcomes audiences back with Jen Silverman's deconstructive satire of Victorian neo-Gothic literary tropes. Details at www.ARedOrchidTheatre.org
Mary Shen Barnidge