Beyond the tinsel | Theater Preview | Chicago Reader

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Beyond the tinsel

December performing arts aren't just about the holly jolly.

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THEATER PICKS (KERRY REID)

Good Grief

Free Street Theater kicks off its 51st season with Afro Latina solo artist Melissa DuPrey's show about a road trip she took with her mother, several years before her mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The show looks at the inequities people of color face in seeking mental health treatment. Free Street Theater, 12/4-12/21, freestreet.org

The White Plague

Czech writer Karel Čapek is probably best known for his dystopian drama about robots taking over the world, 1920's R.U.R. Trap Door Theatre mounts a rare production of this 1937 play, which was written as Germany's threats against Čapek's homeland were increasing. As a nation faces looming warfare, a strange disease begins killing people over the age of 45. Nicole Wiesner directs. Trap Door Theatre, 12/5-1/11, trapdoortheatre.com

The Light in the Piazza

Renée Fleming returns to the Lyric in Adam Guettel's musical about a 1950s wealthy American mother, Margaret Johnson, who visits Florence with her daughter, Clara, who suffered a brain injury some years earlier that has left her in a childlike state. When a young Italian man falls in love with the younger woman, Margaret wrestles with what's really best for her child and herself. Lyric Opera, 12/14-12/29, lyricopera.org

Dance Nation

The existential terrors of preteen girlhood come into raw focus in Clare Barron's play (a 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist) about a dance troupe fighting their way into the finals in Tampa. Lee Sunday Evans, who staged the world premiere in New York, directs and choreographs for Steppenwolf, with a multigenerational cast of women portraying the young dancers. Steppenwolf Theatre, 12/12-2/2, steppenwolf.org

Mean Girls

More teenage drama, this time courtesy of the musical adaptation of Tina Fey's 2004 film (inspired in part by Rosalind Wiseman's book Queen Bees and Wannabes), in which Cady, who was raised in Africa by her scientist parents, must deal with the cliques and backstabbing of a suburban high school. Fey adapted her own screenplay for the book, with a score by her husband, Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin of Legally Blonde: The Musical. James M. Nederlander Theatre, 12/25-1/26, broadwayinchicago.com

DANCE PICKS (IRENE HSIAO)

Echo Mine

Founding Hubbard Street Dance Chicago member Claire Bataille left an unforgettable mark on Chicago contemporary dance. A role model, teacher, and mentor to many, she defined concert dance for a generation of artists. A year after Bataille succumbed to pancreatic cancer, choreographer and former Hubbard Street dancer Robyn Mineko Williams unites with Meredith Dincolo and Jacqueline Burnett to present Echo Mine, an evening-length work initially created with and inspired by Bataille. Each an HSDC icon in her own right, the three celebrate lineage, legacy, and new beginnings, accompanied by an original score by Califone, projections by CandyStations, and costumes by Hogan McLaughlin. Sat 12/7, 7:30 PM, Harris Theater, harristheaterchicago.org

Next 50.1

Venerable modern dance company Mordine & Company Dance Theater continues its 50th anniversary year with a program of company repertoire and new works by artistic director Shirley Mordine, as well as pieces created under Mordine's mentorship by company dancers and Ayako Kato. Intermittently associated with Mordine as a choreographer since 2010 and a teacher since 2012, Kato describes her new work, "Always the Beginning," as an exploration of a Buddhist state of emptiness. "Dance is equivalent to the action of meditation," she says. "I created this work to pursue how humans can be empty to be fully themselves." Thu 12/12-Fri 12/13, 7:30 PM, Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, mordine.org

Reaffirmed/Reimagined

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater presents a mixed bill of classic and contemporary works showcasing its vivid blend of ballet, modern, and African dance to launch its first season under new artistic director Nicole Clarke-Springer. Along with works by Clarke-Springer, DRDT cofounder and associate director Gary Abbott, and artistic director emeritus Kevin Iega Jeff, the program features the revival of Martial Roumain's 1972 Essence—A Portrait of Four Women, which depicts the struggle and sisterhood of four women of color to music by Nina Simone, Zulema, Roberta Flack, and Nikki Giovanni. Shows on December 14 and 15 offer a sneak peek of DRDT's newest collaboration with gospel singer Donald Lawrence and his Tri-City Singers, set to premiere in 2020. Fri 12/13-Sat 12/14, 7:30 PM, Sun 12/15, 6 PM, Logan Center for the Arts, deeplyrooteddancetheater.org

COMEDY PICKS (BRIANNA WELLEN)

Late Late Breakfast

Meredith Kachel and Audrey Jonas host this game show/stand-up show hybrid featuring some of the city's best comics, who perform their sets with a twist. That can mean telling jokes while being pied in the face, booed by the entire audience, or whatever fresh new challenge Kachel and Jonas can think of. And it all comes with a side of free pancakes. Sat 12/14, 3 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, latelatebreakfast.com, $5 suggested donation.

So Tacky: Tack the Halls

This month the comedy variety show features a lineup of naughty and nice stand-ups, sketch comics, musicians, and more. Performers include Yaz Bat, Sharup Karim, BAPS comedy, Devin Middleton, Kayla Pulley, and Angel Garcia. Wed 12/18, 7-10 PM, Tack Room, 1807 S. Allport, tackroomchicago.com, $5, 21+. v

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