Sunday in the Park With George and midnight with zombies: new performing arts reviews

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With Halloween just weeks away, Chicago's theater scene is chock full of eerie shows. We've reviewed seven of them for the new issue, plus 13 productions without holiday themes.

Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque demonstrates Gorilla Tango Theatre's evolving sophistication, says Tony Adler, and the cast of eight strippers come through the zombifying process looking surprisingly good. Adler laments that Splatter Theater doesn't have the same verve it did in its original production 25 years ago, but another revival—Hell in a Handbag's Scarrie, first staged in 1998—"works both as big camp and nuanced humor."

Asher Klein isn't impressed with City Lit Theater's Frankenstein, remarking that Ed Krystosek's performance as the titular scientist falls flat, bringing the whole show down with it. Albert Williams writes that impressive sound design and video segments help make the most of the flawed script for WildClaw's The Life of Death.

According to Zac Thompson, Jennifer Haley's indictment of absentee parenting and video game addiction, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, can seem preachy at times. But director Joanie Schultz mixes reality and fantasy to produce a truly frightening show. Keith Griffith, on the other hand, is bored and exasperated by Nightmares on Lincoln Avenue IV: Welcome to the Undead City, arguing that it tosses a few amusing bits into a tired zombie-movie parody.

And there endeth the Halloween show reviews. With regard to other efforts . . .

Adler has nothing but praise for Sunday in the Park With George at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Gary Griffin's production is beautifully designed and features an outstanding performance by Carmen Cusack. Much less satisfying are the amiably amateurish The Great Fire: A Travelling Truck Show and Steep Theatre's incoherent, tedious Making Noise Quietly.

Justin Hayford reports that Unnatural Spaces calls out American environmentalism as futile and fad-ridden, using humor to stir the conscience. Hayford also recommends Dael Orlandersmith's 90-minute solo piece Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men, which deals primarily with emotional and sexual abuse and requires Orlandersmith to morph into six distinct characters. Zac Thompson appreciates PJ Paparelli's expert staging of the "The Catholic Repertory," which pairs two plays about nuns: Doubt and Agnes of God. But lackluster performances in the former and too many crying fits in the latter make for a failed evening.

The Neo-Futurists' 44 Plays for 44 Presidents brings humor and humility to America's highest political office, says Keith Griffith. Julia Thiel is mesmerized by the peculiarities of James Manno's odd musical, Happiness: The Pursuit and Other Tragedies. Dan Jakes is disappointed with LiveWire Chicago's The Mistakes Madeline Made, but suggests you see One Name Only (A Different Kind of Reality Show). And Jack Helbig finds Tympanic Theatre Company's Ruby Wilder wildly gripping, "Every element of James Palmer's brilliantly staged, terrifying Tympanic Theatre Company production amps up the tension," he writes.

Finally, Fernando Melo's new ensemble piece for Luna Negra Dance Theater, Walk-In, turns the mundane tasks of everyday life surreal, and Laura Molzahn likes that. But Molzahn warns that while the ETA Creative Arts Foundation staging of James Baldwin's The Amen Corner starts out strong, it "fizzles" in the second half.

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