Mr. Zero--the misogynist, racist antihero of Elmer Rice's 1923 expressionist classic--spends 25 years totaling figures for a nameless company only to be replaced by a machine. Driven to homicide, he's tried and executed, then transported to heaven, where infinite freedom proves more paralyzing than thankless bureaucratic toil. Adapting Rice's anguished hallucination for the musical stage, composer Joshua Schmidt pairs a bracing, angular, harmonically labyrinthine score with a stripped-down libretto (written with Jason Loewith). The result is a compelling if uneven chamber opera. Dampening Rice's grotesque distortions makes the story's fantastical elements--and most of the final two scenes--feel tacked on, but in David Cromer's handsome, elemental staging the cast's underplaying resonates to powerful effect. --Justin Hayford a Through 2/25: Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Next Theatre Company, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes, Evanston, 847-475-1875, ext. 2, $20-$40.