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MIXED NUTS, Chicago Sable Ensemble and Excaliber Shakespeare Company of Chicago, at New Harrison Street Galleries Studio Theatre. The Lady Doesn't Mourn (The Elevator) is the first work on this bill of three short plays, the debut production of the Chicago Sable Ensemble, the newest tenant in Oak Park's up-and-coming New Harrison Street Galleries Studio Theatre. Playwright Costas Mourselas traps his three incompatibles--a corporate drone, his trophy wife, and a young hippie with a Darwinian sense of humor--in an elevator on a weekend summer night. Power games ensue in this artificial hell, and the best prepared emerges as victor. The themes could easily seem dated. But Gregory Christopher Armstrong's direction makes them immediate and intriguing, and Dan Marco, Melissa Thew, and Justin Sternburgh display real chemistry.

Next on the program is Ben Caldwell's satirical Birth of a Blues, in which an old musician--an ebullient Armstrong--being interviewed by a naive newshound sets the record straight on the source of his inspiration. It's followed by Excaliber Shakespeare Company's overchoreographed rendition of Tad Mosel's existential allegory Impromptu. Darryl Maximilian Robinson's slow-paced direction is enlivened by inventive performances from Sternburgh and Erica Ayche'le.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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