Lookingglass calls it a "Victorian fairy tale of joy and woe," but Dickens's 1841 serial novel is weak tea compared to Hard Times, whose 2001 staging was a triumph. Snapshots of London life--violent Punch and Judy shows, dens of iniquity--don't suit a fairy tale, but the black-and-white characters do. Long-suffering Little Nell (an uncloying Lorri Hamm) is too good to be true while the gratuitously dwarfish, melodramatic villain (a spiderlike Thomas J. Cox) is too nasty to be real and too clumsy to be threatening. Tracy Walsh's staging is delightfully comic, however, featuring Lawrence DiStasi as a sluggardly benefactor, Elizabeth Ledo as a mousy servant with a lion's soul, and Lisa Tejero as both dragon spinster and shrinking spouse. Through 6/11: Wed 7:30 PM, Thu 6:30 PM, Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, no show Fri 5/12, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan, 312-337-0665, $15-$58.