Verily, the Armageddonists have got it right: Satan is abroad in the land. And he seems to be putting on shows at every off-Loop theater in Chicago. Here's a selection of fresh hells, designed to help you worship the Evil One—at least through the end of the month.
Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque When I told my wife (and yes, I told my wife) that I was going to see a zombie-themed strip show called Boobs of the Dead, she made a face and laid out a picture for me of gray, rotting dugs without so much as a hint of perk. Well, that's not how it turned out. This parody of the Walking Dead franchise features eight remarkably healthy-looking infectees. In fact, as a lab-coated scientist points out, the zombifying process actually makes them sexier, magically clothing them in bustiers and fishnet stockings. Even a bearded old codger gets transformed. Gorilla Tango burlesques are always smart and playful, but this edition shows a developing sophistication. The dancers are more confident, Erica Reid's choreography is more resourceful (starting with an awfully sexy reverse strip and culminating in a full-out production number), and, um, standout performances are getting more common. Paly Flames, in particular, does some honest-to-god show-stealing here. —Tony Adler Through 10/27: Fri 9 PM, Sat midnight, also Wed 10/31, 9 PM, Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee, 773-598-4549, gorillatango.com, $20.
Frankenstein Yes, it's easy to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as the story of a monster who, in searching for acceptance, becomes more human than the death-obsessed scientist who created him. But who'd have guessed that City Lit Theater Company would render that paradox so literally? Mark Pracht is impressive as the anguished and terrible Creature, while Ed Krystosek has a flat, Kermit the Frog-like delivery as Victor Frankenstein. Worse, the monster arrives only toward the end of the first act, leaving Krystosek to carry scene after expositional scene until then—director Terry McCabe gets more excitement out of the whizzing, purring Victorian lab equipment. The show eventually builds momentum, but slows down again when the focus shifts away from Pracht's lumbering antihero and back to Kermit. —Asher Klein Through 11/4: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, also Thu 10/25 and 11/1, 8 PM, and Wed 10/31, 8 PM, City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, 773-293-3682, citylit.org, $20.
The Life of Death Gripped by depression following a hysterectomy, a young woman comes to believe that she's been chosen by Death to bring a fatal plague to London. Charley Sherman's adaptation of the story by British horror writer Clive Barker is pedestrian and talky, but this WildClaw Theatre production compensates for the script's flaws with an impressively evocative, eerie sound design by Christopher Kriz and inventive video segments by Ira Amyx. Under Carolyn Klein's direction, WildClaw stalwart Steve Herson brings texture to the role of the tall, deep-voiced fellow who may or may not be the grim reaper. —Albert Williams Through 11/4: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497, dcatheater.org, $15-$25.
Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom "Nothing will scare you more than your own family," says a character in Jennifer Haley's 2008 play about people who live under the same roof yet inhabit separate worlds. The trouble starts when teens in a suburban neighborhood get hooked on a video game about hunting zombies that look an awful lot like their own parents. When it becomes impossible to tell what's real and what's virtual—both for the teens and for us—all heck breaks loose. Haley's indictment of disengaged parenting and kids' addiction to screens occasionally slides from satire into sermonizing. But Joanie Schultz's production is exactly right: saturated in multimedia (designed by Kyle Hamman) and performed with an appropriate mix of realism and fantasy. The game-over finale is genuinely chilling. —Zac Thompson Through 11/10: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 4 PM, Strawdog Theatre Company, 3829 N. Broadway, 773-528-9696, strawdog.org, $15-$28
Nightmares on Lincoln Avenue IV: Welcome to the Undead City It's a shame no deranged, mask-wearing sadist was in on the writing of this long Corn Productions sketch show. A decent psychopath might've found imaginative ways to tell writers-directors Christian Vernon and Kallie Rolison that their show, which follows a wholesome family from Peoria on a visit to zombie-ridden Chicago, is bloated with exasperating, unfunny bits and hollow references to local color (look, bucket drummers!). But that clearly didn't happen. And so, rather than showcase the funnier bits—like the radio ad for a pooper-scooper that ends with the voice talent ad-libbing a gruesome murder on-air—Nightmares buries them under tired parodies of scary-movie tropes and a listless, limb-dragging zombie plot. —Keith Griffith Through 10/31: Wed-Sat 8 PM, Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln, 773-650-1331, cornservatory.org, $7-$15.
Scarrie David Cerda and Hell in a Handbag Productions have pulled off a neat sleight-of-hand by reviving a show they first put on in 1998—before HHP existed. Long story, no doubt. But the bottom line is that this musical drag parody of Brian DePalma's 1976 horror movie, Carrie, is well worth whatever odd logic was involved in getting it back onstage. Alex Grelle is very funny and not a little heartbreaking as the shy teen with telekinetic powers whose only desire is to be normal. Inasmuch as the superfoxy girls hate her and her crazed mom considers her an abomination before the Lord, her chances are slim to nil. Things only get worse when people try to help her. Under Cheryl Snodgrass's direction, Scarrie works both as big camp and nuanced humor. It's oddly charming when one of the superfoxy girls invites another over to her house to hear Styx on eight-track, gets a no, and disbelievingly responds, "But it's eight tracks!" —Tony Adler Through 11/10: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, also Wed 10/31, 7:30 PM, Mary's Attic Theatre, 5400 N. Clark, 773-784-6969, hamburgermaryschicago.com, $15-$20.
Splatter Theater Scarrie (see above) started it all for Hell in a Handbag Productions, and this satire on slasher flicks did the same, 25 years ago, for Annoyance Productions. Incredibly, I reviewed that original staging. Back then I said, "Splatter Theater's not out for blood. Just a good time. The show's a goof on the conventions of those stupid old B-quality hack-'em-ups we're all supposed to have seen at the drive-in. It's also very funny. And resourceful: blood pours, drizzles, dribbles, and sprays in 2,000 variations—and ever-increasing quantities—through a half million open wounds. Paper cuts generate buckets." The thing is still fitfully funny, thanks mainly to some agreeably flaky performances and a twist or two. But this anniversary revival hasn't got the gonzo energy, the let's-try-this zeal I can still remember. —Tony Adler Through 10/27: Sat 10 PM, also Wed 10/31, 8 PM, Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway, 773-561-4665, annoyanceproductions.com, $20.