May 2015 events calendar for Chicago

Plan your May in Chicago with our events calendar of the best things to do, including concerts, theater openings and art exhibits

Photograph: John Lankford
Bike the Drive

For months this past winter, friends and loved ones asked us, "So why do you stay in Chicago?" Why do we put up with the weather? There are many reasons we love Chicago, and the arrival of May is near the top. May in Chicago is glorious. We can finally eat outside some of the city's best outdoor restaurants. Music festival season kicks off with Do Division and Summer Camp. Street festivals get started with Maifest and Mayfest (yes, they are different!). Plus, there's everyone's favorite reason to drink margaritas (besides National Margarita Day, Feb 22), Cinco de Mayo.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2015

Featured events in May 2015

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Critics' pick

Brothers Jim and William Reid bury their animosity and take the JAMChain back on the road for a 30th anniversary tour of Psychocandy, the blisteringly loud and gorgeous debut that shook England's rock scene. Bring earplugs, unless you recently saw the heavily indebted My Bloody Valentine, in which case your hearing is already toast.

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Riviera Theatre Until Tue May 5

Cinco de Mayo

Join the festivities by hitting a cocktail bar for a margarita or head to Pilsen to sample Mexican food, make sure you check out our guide to the food and events you need to experience on Cinco de Mayo.

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By: Zach Long

American Beer Classic

Enjoy the best of American beer and sample brews from the more than 30 participating breweries, including local standbys and national favorites, at this Solider Field beer festival. After sipping the 200 plus beers, you can be the judge for the event's best drink by downloading an app and voting for the MVB (Most Valuable Brew).

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Soldier Field 09 May 2015

Mother's Day

Your mother brought you into the world; the least you can do is show her a good time on Mother's Day. From brunch to gifts to shopping and spa treatments, start planning out your day with the help of our guide to things to do on Mother's Day.

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By: Zach Long

The Who

Critics' pick

Keith Moon died in '78, John Entwhistle in 2002, but that hasn't stopped Daltrey and Townshend from singing about their generation. The Who, like Nike, turns 50 years old this year and so the hits are being wheeled out again, in addition to some new material. As long as Pete's arm can keep windmilling, there's life in them yet. Despite their age, and 50% survival rate, don't underestimate the live show.

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Allstate Arena Thursday October 15 2015

Jeff Tweedy

Critics' pick

The local icon steps away from Wilco and Tweedy for his Annual Benefit for Education. At last year's charity gig, the singer-guitarist covered Nick Drake, the Beatles, Nat King Cole and Lennon, and dug into his catalog back to Uncle Tupelo. These are quite special shows.

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Vic Theatre 15 May 2015

Summer Camp Music Festival

Sip on some bug juice and be your own counselor as you spend three days in an outdoor park with the jammy sounds of Umphrey's McGee, Moe and Widespread Panic more than a hundred other bands on six stages. Steve Miller Band and Paul Oakenfold also top the bill at this crunchiest of regional fests. Gates open for a pre-party at noon on Thursday and don't shut till the fest is over. Bean burritos and dank available in the parking lot (probably).

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Three Sisters Park Until Sun May 24

Memorial Day

Each summer, Chicago honors the men and women who died protecting our country with one of the nation's largest Memorial Day parades in the Loop. Prepare for the long weekend with our guide to downtown attractions, weekend getaways and more.

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By: Zach Long

Bike the Drive

Critics' pick

Have you ever dreamed of cruising down Lake Shore Drive on your bicycle? Bike and the Drive makes that dream a reality for one day this year, closing down the popular lakefront thoroughfare to cars early on a Sunday morning. Participants can bike from Byrn Mawr Ave to the Museum of Science industry (and back) during the five hours of car-free riding.

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Bike the Drive Route Until Sun May 24

Second Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival

Critics' pick

The confusingly named comedy festival organized by The Onion and The A.V. Club returns for a second year, bringing John Mulaney, Eric Andre, Kyle Kinane and more funny people to town. This year's lineup introduces a couple of film screenings to the mix, including Cabin Boy and UHF, the latter of which will feature a Q&A with “Weird Al” Yankovic and Jay Levey. If you're more interested in knowing how the yucks are created, writers from The Onion and The Simpsons will be holding panel discussions. Check out the entire slate of programming on the fest's website.

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Lincoln Hall Saturday May 30 2015
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Concerts in May 2015

Paramore

What a difference a No. 10 single makes. After "Ain't It Fun" brightened up summer 2014, Paramore is now getting all grown-up with that inevitable 'an intimate night with' stage of its career, with steep tickets to match. Hayley Williams' Blondie-indebted pop-punk tunes will be accompanied by opening act Copeland.

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Rosemont Theatre Until Sun May 3

Crosby, Stills + Nash

Crosby, Stills & Nash was the Lollapalooza headliner of its time, a festival youth-magnet ringer. But these days, the trio of counter-culture survivors serves as counter-programming, a simultaneous reminder of what once was and a blatant riposte to what currently is. Soak in their septuagenarian harmonies at the start of spring in the Chicago Theatre.

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Chicago Theatre Until Tue May 5

Faith No More

Critics' pick

Faith No More remain one of the harder hard rock bands to classify. There's too much weirdness and pop in its DNA to peg it as heavy metal. Singer Mike Patton dabbles in jazz and carnival tunes with projects like Mr. Bungle and Fantomas. Keyboardist Roddy Bottum crafted one of the best indie pop album of the '90s with Imperial Teen. All those disparate influences came to the surface best on 1992's Angel Dust. You're most likely to know the band for its Chili Pepperish hit "Epic," which is nowhere near the group's new tunes, like the menacing and swinging "Motherfucker." It appeals to Frank Zappa heads as much as headbangers.

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Concord Music Hall Until Thu May 7

ILoveMakonnen

Critics' pick

Makonnen Sheran's greatet talent is his remarkable lack of skill. The 25-year-old rapper struggles at rapping and singing with utmost confidence, mutanting his club bangers into some new DIY subgenre with his slow, dorky drawl. He is weird and fearless, which is a sort of trademark of the Atlanta scene. Turn off your critical filters. So his self-titled EP is more of a Snapchat feed than a novel—that's the point.

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Metro Chicago Until Sat May 9

Passion Pit

Critics' pick

Michael Angelakos returns with the third iteration of his Passion Pit project, Kindred, an album that streamlines his maximalist giddy-sad synth-pop into radio gems. There's a new lineup of musicians backing him this time to help recreate lush love numbers like "All I Want." Upbeat cuts like "Five-Foot Ten" and "Whole Life Story" will get the masses sweaty and moving. Holychild, a cleaned-up take on Tune-Yards and Sleigh Bells, opens.

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Thalia Hall Until Thu May 14

Jeff Tweedy

Critics' pick

The local icon steps away from Wilco and Tweedy for his Annual Benefit for Education. At last year's charity gig, the singer-guitarist covered Nick Drake, the Beatles, Nat King Cole and Lennon, and dug into his catalog back to Uncle Tupelo. These are quite special shows.

Read more
Vic Theatre 15 May 2015

Tame Impala

Critics' pick

The Aussie act makes an anticipated return with its third album in 2015, and judging by "Let It Happen," you might want to clear some space off near the top of your Year's Best list. The vintage psychedelic merchants delve into electronics on the eight-minute cut, pouring mushrooms on the dance floor, in what could pass for a Daft Punk remix of the Electric Prunes. It's starting to look like the Year of the Impala in rock.

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Riviera Theatre 15 May 2015

Azealia Banks

Critics' pick

After endless delays and a seemingly incurable case of Twitter Foot in Mouth Disease, Azealia Banks finally set things right and dropped Broke with Expensive Taste. It's a playful debut that cherry-picks ideas from M.I.A., Missy Elliott, Janelle Monae and, er, Ariel Pink to cook up a refreshing advancement on hip-hop. Ignore her social media and just go with her flow.

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Concord Music Hall 15 May 2015

Gerard Way

Critics' pick

The former main man of My Chemical Romance tours his glammy solo debut Hesitant Alien, which draws on a whole pool of influences—Britpop, Bowie and the brainy comic books he writes in his spare time.

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Vic Theatre 16 May 2015

Jenny Lewis

Former Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis is the picture of California cool on The Voyager, her third solo effort. Its songs attack sexism and aging with wit, couching the barbs in warm folk-rocky production. The new batch is a welcome addition to Lewis's growing live repertoire, which includes some Rilo Kiley throwbacks for good measure.

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Vic Theatre Until Mon May 18
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Festivals in May 2015

NFL Draft Town

Critics' pick

Even if you can't get inside the NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre, fans will still be able celebrate their favorite teams at Draft Town in Grant Park. This free event will feature flag football competitions, a skydive simulator, a Super Bowl memorabilia museum and a bar serving up adult beverages. All 32 NFL teams will have houses where fans can gather and purchase exclusive merchandise.

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Grant Park Until Sat May 2 Free

Cinco De Mayo Festival

Yes, it takes place on the Uno, Dos and Tres of Mayo, but no Cinco celebration is more authentic than the fete in Little Village. The kiddies can ride live ponies and carnival attractions, and there's food, arts, crafts and music in this massive celebration of Mexican culture in the Midwest.

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2600 S Kostner Ave Until Sun May 3 Free

North By Northwest Highway Music Fest

The already crowded slate of summer festivals is joined by this new event in Edison Park. The North by Northwest Highway Music Fest will celebrate local bands at four area venues, including Emerald Isle, Firewater Saloon, Edison Park Inn and Moretti's. Attendees can see tribute bands playing the music of U2, No Doubt and ZZ Top in addition to a host of local blues, rock and country acts.

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Edison Park Inn Until Sun May 3

Long Grove Chocolate Fest

Besides abundant handfuls of the world's favorite antioxidant, this annual north suburban fest includes live music, beer and brats. Vendors and local restaurants feature chocolate-themed items and inspirations, like the Apple Haus' famous Johnny Pop, an apple cider donut smothered in chocolate.

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Downtown Streets of Long Grove Until Sun May 3

Chicago Critics Film Festival

Critics' pick

In its fourth year, this festival, created by the Chicago Film Critics Association, features undistributed gems and fest favorites. This year's line up includes the Bobcat Goldthwait-directed documentary Call Me Lucky, Joe Swanberg's latest comedy Digging For Fire and the Jason Segel playing David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. See the festival's website for indiviudal screening information.

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Music Box Theatre Until Thu May 7

Kids and Kites Festival

Critics' pick

Celebrate the arrival of spring at this free, outdoor family-friendly festival at Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park, where kids can fly a kite or watch professional demonstrations. Free paper kites will be provided, but families will also be able to purchase more intricate flying creations from a variety of vendors.

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Montrose Harbor 02 May 2015 Free

Polish Constitution Day Parade

The Polish Constitution was signed on May 3rd, 1791 and for the past 124 years Chicago has celebrated the date with a parade through the Loop. More than 250,000 attendees flock to Dearborn Street to watch the procession and honor Europe's first democratic constitution.

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Dearborn St between Lake and Van Buren Until Sat May 2 Free

Chicago Zine Fest

Critics' pick

Don't you miss the feeling of Kinkos ink on your fingertips? Chicago Zine Fest is an annual celebration of DIY publications, which kicks off with a series of panels at Access Living. On Saturday, 200+ zinesters show off their homemade soul at Plumber's Union Hall. Kids, this is what blogging used to look like.

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Access Living Until Sat May 9 Free

American Beer Classic

Enjoy the best of American beer and sample brews from the more than 30 participating breweries, including local standbys and national favorites, at this Solider Field beer festival. After sipping the 200 plus beers, you can be the judge for the event's best drink by downloading an app and voting for the MVB (Most Valuable Brew).

Read more
Soldier Field 09 May 2015

Zoo-ologie

The Lincoln Park Zoo's annual fundraiser features cocktails on the Nature Boardwalk, bites from local restaurants and live music for dancing. Proceeds help keep the zoo's admission free for visitors year round.

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Lincoln Park Zoo Until Sat May 9
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Art in May 2015

"S, M, L, XL"

Critics' pick

In the 1960s, sculptors began taking their pieces off of pedestals and creating immersive artworks that become a part of the gallery instead of its focal point. "S, M, L, XL" explores the role of sculpture by presenting four different works that increase in physical size and ambition. Ranging from an impossibly narrow hallway to the interior a decommissioned hot air balloon, viewers are able to inhabit these sculptures and explore the physical and emotional boundaries of the medium.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Until Sunday October 4 2015

"The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates"

For the past 15 years, artist Julie Green has painted images of death row inmates' last meal requests on plates as part of an ongoing project. She plans to paint 50 plates each year until capital punishment is abolished. The Block Museum will be displaying 600 of Green's plates, each accompanied by a description of the meal, a date and the state in which the inmate was executed, highlighting the anonymous nature of the death penalty.

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Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art Until Sunday August 9 2015 Free

"Liminal Infrastructure"

Critics' pick

See photographs taken with the Liminal Camera, a massive portable camera fashioned from a shipping container, at this new DePaul Art Museum exhibition. The collection features newly-commissioned photographs made in and around Chicago by Lauren Bon, Richard Nielsen and Tristan Duke. A companion exhibit, "Liminal Portraits", will be on display simultaneously at Co-Prosperity Sphere.

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DePaul Art Museum Until Sunday August 9 2015 Free

"Sonja Thomsen: Glowing Wavelengths In Between"

Milwaukee-based artist Sonja Thomsen explores the ephemeral qualities of light in her latest exhibition, "Glowing Wavelengths In Between." Collecting color photographs, photographic murals and metallic sculptures, each piece in the collection searches for ways to recalibrate our perceptions of the visible world.

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DePaul Art Museum Until Sunday August 9 2015 Free

"Charles Ray: Sculpture, 1997–2014"

Critics' pick

The second floor of the Modern Wing plays host to an exhibition devoted to the work of Chicago-born sculptor Charles Ray. Since beginning his career as a sculptor in the early '80s, Ray has become known for his life-sized works and his innovative use of solid, machined aluminum and stainless steel.

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Art Institute of Chicago Until Sunday October 4 2015

"Frances Stark: Intimism"

For more than two decades, the work of Frances Stark has focused on how the working life of an artist collides with an artist's non-working life. "Intimism" marks the first comprehensive survey of Stark’s video and digital production, including essays, drawings, and iPhone photographs, videos and PowerPoint presentations that act as artistic expressions and glimpses at the life of their creator.

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Art Institute of Chicago Until Sunday August 30 2015

"Jean-Luc Mylayne: Mutual Regard"

Using common birds as "actors," French photographer Jean-Luc Mylayne composes beautiful shots, returning day after day to a chosen spot until his subjects occupy the position he imagined. Presented in cooperation with the Arts Club of Chicago, the exhibition will be supplemented by an installation in a public building in Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden, featuring a 30-foot-long photographic fresco on its ceiling.

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Art Institute of Chicago Until Sunday August 23 2015

Free events in May 2015

Smokey Joe's South Side Soul Shack

Crate digging soul archaeologist Joe Bryl recreates the bygone nightlife of South Side Chicago with this monthly party of deep funk, soul and disco. One of the best parties at one of the best joints in town. The name Smokey Joe's is a tribute to an erstwhile dapper clothier on Roosevelt and Halsted, so dressing sharp is certainly encouraged.

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Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar Friday June 5 2015 - Friday December 4 2015 Free

NFL Draft Town

Critics' pick

Even if you can't get inside the NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre, fans will still be able celebrate their favorite teams at Draft Town in Grant Park. This free event will feature flag football competitions, a skydive simulator, a Super Bowl memorabilia museum and a bar serving up adult beverages. All 32 NFL teams will have houses where fans can gather and purchase exclusive merchandise.

Read more
Grant Park Until Sat May 2 Free

Kids and Kites Festival

Critics' pick

Celebrate the arrival of spring at this free, outdoor family-friendly festival at Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park, where kids can fly a kite or watch professional demonstrations. Free paper kites will be provided, but families will also be able to purchase more intricate flying creations from a variety of vendors.

Read more
Montrose Harbor 02 May 2015 Free

Cinco De Mayo Parade

Although most Americans use Cinco De Mayo as an excuse to drink margaritas, the holiday actually commemorates the victory the Mexican forces had over the invading French army on May 5, 1862. This annual celebration in Pilsen fills the streets with colorful attire and traditional music. The parade starts at Cermak and Wood and travels west to Kedzie.

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Cermak Rd and Wood St Until Sun May 3 Free

PBR Bingo

On the first Monday of every month, Boiler Room turns into a hip, Logan Square nursing home for its monthly PBR Bingo night. Guests can grab a few slices, sip a beer and wait for their numbers to be called while competing for various Pabst Blue Ribbon-themed prizes.

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Boiler Room Monday June 1 2015 - Monday November 2 2015 Free

Chicago River Day

Each year, Friends of the Chicago River calls on volunteers to clean up the city's main tributary. The organization will be hosting a celebratory River Day party on the bridge between Goose Island and North Avenue, featuring music from Windy City Soul Club, Goose Island beer and various food truck cuisine.

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Bridge Number Z-2 09 May 2015 Free

"Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity"

The Museum of Contemporary Photography's latest exhibit explores the concept of the "Black Dandy", a popular culture phenomenon that defies stereotypical understandings of Black masculinity. Made up of photos depicting Black males mixing Victorian-era fashion with traditional African sartorial sensibilities, "Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity" highlights young men who are breaking the mold, one outfit at a time.

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Museum of Contemporary Photography Until Sunday July 12 2015 Free

ACTIVATE

Critics' pick

Each month, Chicago Loop Alliance throws a party in a nondescript downtown alley with the help of local artists and DJs. This month, the event takes place in the Sullivan Center's alley, where Johalla Projects will present Nightbloom, a new installation exploring the relationship between light and dark.

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Sullivan Center alley 15 May 2015 Free

Bridgeport Art Center 3rd Fridays

On the third Friday of every month, Bridgeport Art Center resident artists open their studio doors to the public for a night of mixing, mingling and, of course, art. Tour individual artist work spaces and shop for one-of-a-kind works from local painters, sculpters, photographers and more. Free parking, and BYOB.

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Bridgeport Art Center Friday June 19 2015 - Friday November 20 2015 Free

Run Like the Windy City

Classic landmarks meet up with modern-day social media for Run Like The Windy City. Teams of two are tasked with completing ten tasks involving the city's historic landmarks on this scavenger hunt. The teams then take a photo of themselves completing the tasks and upload the images onto Instagram using the hashtag #WindyCityRace. Loews Chicago Hotel donates $10 to Donor's Choose for every team that enters.

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Loews Chicago Hotel 16 May 2015
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Theater and dance in May 2015

Bad Jews

Critics' pick

Theater Wit stages the Chicago premiere of Joshua Harmon's 2012 comedy, about two cousins squabbling over a family heirloom in the aftermath of their grandfather's funeral. Jeremy Wechsler directs a cast that includes Erica Bittner, Ian Paul Custer, Corey Kahane and Laura Lapidus.

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Theater Wit Until Sunday July 19 2015

The Project(s)

Critics' pick

American Theater Company artistic director PJ Paparelli and writer-musician Joshua Jaeger collaborated to pen this percussive documentary-theater piece about public housing.

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American Theater Company Until Sunday June 21 2015

Quiz Show

Strawdog stages the U.S. premiere of Scottish playwright Rob Drummond's twisty 2013 piece about the dark truth behind lighthearted game show False!. Oracle Theatre artistic director Max Truax makes his Strawdog debut at the helm.

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Strawdog Theatre Company Until Saturday June 13 2015

The Little Foxes

Critics' pick

The greedy, ruthless members of the Hubbard clan lie, cheat and steal to increase their personal wealth at their relatives’ expense. Henry Wishcamper directs Lillian Hellman’s avaricious 1939 drama, with a stacked cast that includes Shannon Cochran, Larry Yando, Steve Pickering, Mary Beth Fisher, John Judd, Dan Waller and Rae Gray.

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Goodman Theatre Until Sunday June 7 2015

Inana

An Iraqi museum curator and his young bride escape to London ahead of the U.S. invasion in 2003, with the curator risking his life to preserve an ancient statue of the titular goddess. Kimberly Senior directs the Chicago premiere of Michele Lowe's award-winning 2009 play.

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TimeLine Theatre Company Until Sunday July 26 2015

Crimes of the Heart

Critics' pick

Beth Henley's first play, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, is a warmly comic portrait of three Mississippi sisters gathered to hold vigil for their dying grandpa. Brad Akin directs for Step Up Productions, with a cast to include Elizabeth Antonucci, Sarah-Jayne Ashenhurst, Will Crouse, Drew Johnson, Lindsey Pearlman and Amanda Powell.

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Athenaeum Theatre Until Sunday June 14 2015

Miracle!

Sex columnist, gay activist and Chicago native Dan Savage penned this irreverent drag spin on The Miracle Worker, which turns Helen Keller into blind and deaf drag queen Helen Stellar. Derek van Barham stages Hell in a Handbag Productions' Midwest premiere, featuring Steve Love as Helen and Elizabeth Lesinski as Annie Sullivan, with Kristopher Bottrall, David Cerda, Laura Coleman, Sydney Genco, Rachel Hadlock, Caitlin Jackson, Ed Jones, Joshua Peterson, Jamie Smith and Christopher Young.

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Mary's Attic Until Friday July 10 2015

Chicago Gay Men's Chorus: We're Still Here

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus celebrates Stephen Sondheim's 85th birthday in its spring show, which follows a lifelong romance using numbers from the likes of Company, Follies and Merrily We Roll Along.

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North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Until Sun May 24

The Salts

The Inconvenience kicks off its 2015 programming slate with an atmospheric collection of short dance pieces created by resident choreographer Erin Kilmurray with artist Molly Brennan and musician and sound designer Mikhail Fiksel. The program promises a "lo-fi, nightlife setting"; it's performed by Josh Anderson, Katie Graves, Kilmurray and Mikey Rioux.

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Collaboraction Saturday May 30 2015

Chalk

Maggie is relieved she and her daughter Cora survived the apocalypse. But is Cora the same person she used to be? The two women face off in Sideshow Theatre Company ensemble member Walt McGough's sci-fi two-hander. Megan A. Smith directs.

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Victory Gardens Biograph Theater Until Sunday June 28 2015

Comments

1 comments
morgan H
morgan H

May is also prime concert month -- tons of shows are coming up including Madeon on 5/1, Hiatus Kaiyote on 5/11, and Passion Pit on 5/14!