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The Incredible Hank and four more new stage shows to see (or avoid)

New Millennium Theatre Company's low-budget superhero goof is among this week's best bets.

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[Recommended] The Incredible Hank In the fictional city of Sandicago, superheroes and supervillains are running rampant. All except Hank, who would rather be the world's greatest file clerk than even admit to possessing any special powers, much less use them to fight bad guys. But when his loudmouth superhero-wannabe boss, Carl, shoots the city's greatest supervillain, Dr. Manticle, Hank is forced to step in and save the day. What makes this hour-long comedy from New Millennium Theatre Company work is that it's sincere without being cloying and self-referential without being smug. The handmade, ultra-low-budget costumes and the use of puppets and fake newscasts only add to the fun, making the underlying commentary on our fame-obsessed society go down that much easier. Alex B. Reynolds wrote and directed. —Dmitry Samarov

The Karaoke Murder Mystery Extravaganza, at the Public House Theatre - TIMOTHY SCHMIDT
  • Timothy Schmidt
  • The Karaoke Murder Mystery Extravaganza, at the Public House Theatre

The Karaoke Murder Mystery Extravaganza Somewhere, for some reason, and at an undisclosed juncture in human history, a cash prize is being awarded for best karaoke performance. The contestants are also the judges. Trouble is that everybody keeps getting picked off by the mob or poisoned with ricin. So much for the plot. What really happens here is that a gaggle of absurd caricatures, unburdened of any depth, sing their favorite songs and then absurdly die, with all the mystery and suspense of a boiled egg. There are pre- and postshow karaoke parties, if you care to get in on the act. —Max Maller

Strawdog Theatre's The Night Season - HEATH HAYS
  • Heath Hays
  • Strawdog Theatre's The Night Season

The Night Season In her 2004 play about a prototypical pent-up rural Irish family—semidemented, unabashedly libidinal grandmother Lily, besotted misanthropic father Patrick, and seething, sexually frustrated sisters Maud, Rose, and Judith—British playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz borrows liberally from Pinter, Chekhov, and Martin McDonagh, among others. It makes for intriguing, well-observed characters facing potentially explosive moments, especially when handsome actor John, playing Yeats in a biopic being shot in town, takes up temporary residence and ignites dormant passions in at least two of the women. But the explosions are late and limp. Little of significant consequence happens until midway through act two, when a flurry of confessions and meltdowns springs from near left field. Director Elly Green's fine cast deliver winning moments—far more winning than the story they're meant to support. —Justin Hayford

Genesis Theatricals' The Radiant, at the Athenaeum - RON GOLDMAN
  • Ron Goldman
  • Genesis Theatricals' The Radiant, at the Athenaeum

The Radiant Marie Curie's epochal scientific triumphs, including the isolation of radium and the discovery of radioactivity, were overshadowed during her lifetime by unwanted celebrity, sexism, and public scandal. Shirley Lauro's tender, searching play, presented by Genesis Theatrical Productions, is adapted from accounts of Curie's clandestine affair with Paul Langevin, a married former student of her beloved husband, Pierre Curie, whom two Parisian packhorses trampled to his untimely death four years prior to the action of the drama. Debbie Ruzicka puts forward an overwhelmingly fragile Marie to James McGuire's shuffling and rakish Paul, her extreme demands—"Leave your wife and children!"—tough and beautiful in their urgent passion. Kaitlin Taylor directs. —Max Maller

Pride Films and Plays' 26 - BRIAN GORE
  • Brian Gore
  • Pride Films and Plays' 26

26 Pride Arts Center christens its late-night programming with this compilation of sketches and supershort plays written by staples of Chicago's comedy and theater scenes. In the vein of the One Minute Play Festival or the Neo-Futurists' The Infinite Wrench, ten playwrights and comedians are randomly assigned letters of the alphabet (hence the title) by director Brian Gore, from which they derive inspiration for a one- or two-minute piece presented by a game ensemble of eight. The result is a little more than an hour of poetry, quick gags, and context-free dramatic fragments that tend to land better the more you're familiar with the names and companies behind them. However slight the pieces, though, at least the fostered sense of community is palpable. —Dan Jakes

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