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Critics' Picks

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For those hoping to catch up on their theatergoing during the holiday fortnight, Reader critics offer their recommendation of shows running at least through New Year's; check Theater listings for schedules, prices, addresses, and phone numbers.

American Divine

Dolphinback Theatre Company's beautifully mounted, superbly performed show features three separate programs of one-acts by Joe Pintauro, linked by recurring themes of death and transcendence, love and loss, parting and reconciliation, are by turns delicate and raunchy, hilarious and touching; any and all are well worth seeing. Theatre Building, through January 6.--Albert Williams

Bubbe Meises: Grandma Stories

Memorable stories and songs and complex, compassionate performances mark Northlight Theatre's musical celebration of Yiddish culture. Northwestern University Theatre and Interpretation Center's Ethel M. Barber Theatre, through December 31.--Gabrielle S. Kaplan

Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack

and

Shannen Doherty Shoots a Porno: A Shockumentary

No matter that the season proclaims joy and rebirth, director Billy Bermingham continues to preach apocalypse, pulling no punches in his caveats to a society gone to shit. If the methods seem extreme, the plays' aim is true and their daring unequaled in Chicago theater. Torso Theatre, open run.--Mary Shen Barnidge

Death of a Salesman

Michael Menendian's straightforward stage pictures in this timely, vital production of Arthur Miller's classic guide us through the tragic effect of the American dream on Willy Loman's family. Raven Theatre, through January 21.--Gabrielle S. Kaplan

Doo Wop Shoo Bop

The Black Ensemble Theater's fun-packed, muckraking musical pays tribute to the guy and girl groups of the 1950s and '60s. DuSable Museum of African American History, through December 31.--Lawrence Bommer

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

Think Santa Claus is just a jolly old elf? Think again. Jeff Goode's tongue-in-cheek expose, performed by the Dolphinback Theatre Company, reveals the truth behind all those rumors about Saint Nick, Rudolph, and the special favor he performed for Santa that foggy Christmas Eve. Organic Greenhouse Lab Theater, through January 7.--Jack Helbig

Forever Plaid

Spoofing and celebrating the squeaky-clean sound of pre-Beatles pop, the Four Plaids (in reality a quartet of gifted singer-comics) are Perry Como wannabes whose skillful close-harmony crooning and hilarious geekiness make this revue the quintessential party show. Royal George Theatre Center cabaret theater, open run.--Albert Williams

Hellcab

Set on Christmas Eve, Famous Door Theatre Company's darkly funny day in the life of a poor, put-upon cabdriver is the ultimate antidote to Christmas treacle--even if playwright Will Kern's antihero does end up listening to Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Ivanhoe Theater, open run.--Jack Helbig

The Killer and the Comic

A Charles Manson clone takes a whack at a Buddy Hackett knockoff in Rooster Mitchell's dark comedy. Even more twisted and hysterical than Christmas with your family. Mary-Arrchie Theatre, open run.--Justin Hayford

Late Nite Catechism

Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's witty, mildly barbed comedy about Catholic schooling seems even warmer, richer, and funnier since nice nun/stern sister Patti Hannon stepped into the lead. Ivanhoe Theater, open run.--Jack Helbig

Open Call

In the Zeitgeist Theater's clever interactive improvisation, audience members audition for an imaginary musical--and end up in something quite real. The show runs in rep with Zeitgeist's Flanagan's Wake, a participatory Irish funeral. Royal George Theatre Center Gallery: Open Call through December 29, Flanagan's Wake through March 17.--Lawrence Bommer

"Sammy" (The Sammy Davis Jr. Story)

This is no warts-and-all docudrama. But if you're looking for an entertaining evening of pop tunes and fancy dancing, look no further. Kenny Davis has the late singer-dancer's style and persona down cold. Black Ensemble Theater, through December 31.--Jack Helbig

Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding

Too long immersed in that collection of neuroses and old habits we call family? What better retreat than to join the two crazed extended families of this funny interactive Italian wedding party and reception (complete with buffet and cash bar). Piper's Alley, open run.--Jack Helbig

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

The Neo-Futurists write, direct, and star in their own short plays--30 of them in 60 minutes--in this playful mix of sense and nonsense, as addictive as buttered popcorn in a movie house. At least seven new scripts will be introduced for the holidays. Neo-Futurarium, open run.--Carol Burbank

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

This goofy, gaudy extravaganza offers escape from those self-centered holiday blues into queer excess. Local queen Honey West portrays Charles Busch's lonely, stagestruck vampire with camp panache and the aid of a supporting cast willing to do (almost) anything. Remember: he who laughs, lasts. Theatre Building, through February 25 (costar Peter Mohawk leaves after December 31).--Carol Burbank

White Trash Wedding and a Funeral

Motherfucking goddamn shit-kicking hilarious, dickhead. Factory Theater, open run.--Justin Hayford

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Paul Natkin, Roger Lewin-Jennifer Girard Studio, Billy Bermingham, Russell McGonagle.

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