Death and Harry Houdini Closing (Theater and Galleries) Member Picks Recommended The Short List (Theater)

When: Thursdays-Sundays and Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 17 2012

The folks at the House Theatre of Chicago are celebrating their tenth anniversary by remounting their first show—and it makes for a helluva party. Playwright-director Nathan Allen skillfully juxtaposes the mundane and the fantastic in this portrait of Houdini's death-defying life and art, putting special emphasis on his relationship with his manipulative widowed mother and his sweet but put-upon wife, Bess. Dennis Watkins is simply magnificent as Houdini, whether executing card tricks or escaping from the famous water-torture cell. He receives fine support from Carolyn Defrin as sassy Bess and Shawn Pfautsch as Theo, Harry's sober-minded brother whose engineering skills helped the star execute his most astonishing feats. I've sometimes found the House's take on mortality a bit twee, but this production serves as a reminder of how thrilling and smart their stagecraft can be. —Kerry Reid

Price: $10-$25

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