Cheap things to do in Chicago

What to do in Chicago when you're broke.

Got limited funds but unlimited energy? Join the club. From comedy nights to museum exhibitions, here's everything going on in Chicago that won't require a payday loan.

Messing With A Friend

Each week, legendary improviser Susan Messing and a different friend segue from scene to scene, creating characters and situations along the way that are weird, wild and wonderful.

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Annoyance Theatre, Lakeview Until Thursday August 20 2015

Challenger

iO presents the long-running definition of late night comedy on their stage, full of big laughs and high energy.

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Until Friday February 13 2015

Snorf!

The Noah Ginex Puppet Company presents this monthly all-ages variety show featuring comedy sketches, improv and special guests.

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Until Saturday January 10 2015

Roald Dahl's The BFG

David Wood's adaptation brings Roald Dahl's Big Friendly Giant and his young friend Sophie to life onstage.

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Apollo Theater, Lincoln Park Until Sunday January 4 2015

A Christmas Carol

Drury Lane's hourlong, kid-friendly rendition of Dickens's tale of holiday redemption has played seasonally for more than 25 years. This year, Scott Calcagno directs a cast led by Brad Armacost as Scrooge.

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Until Tuesday December 23 2014

Amy's Candy Bar Pop-up Store

Amy's Candy Bar pops up at the Hyde Park Shopping Center for six months, just in time for holiday shopping, Valentine's Day gifts and just general chocolate needs.

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Until Wednesday April 1 2015

Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat

Emerald City Theatre presents a new twist on an old favorite. Book writer Ernie Nolan and kindie rocker Justin Roberts put Hansel and Gretel's witch hunt to a rock & roll soundtrack.

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Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, Chicago Until Sunday January 4 2015

Hot Georgia Sunday

Critics' pick

Haven Theatre. By Catherine Trieschmann. Directed by Marti Lyons. With Ed Dzialo, Rob Fenton, Kay Kron, Julie Schroll, H.B. Ward, Emily Woods. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission. Theater review by Megan Powell These days, opinions pile as high as a cat’s back, as they say down South; you can’t turn to a screen of any kind without viewing reportage of everything under the sun, from significant events to what’s happened at the other end of the dinner table, from everyone under the sun. But do we get the actual story from these infinite, separate bits of analysis? Not always. Hot Georgia Sunday, despite being told from six perspectives, tells a story that feels cohesive and, in its best moments, real.Georgia native Catherine Trieschmann has created a kudzu vine of a play, comprised only of character monologues that build and intertwine and that are shared by the members and associates of a small-town, working-class, down-on-their-luck family. They blunder through love, lust, longing and a lot of Jim Beam in their small north Georgia town, one of those places that straddles rural and sprawl, with farm fields and a McDonalds and a state highway slung between them. It all starts and ends at church, where teenager Jenny longs for the touch and attention of a boy in her youth group; her sister Flora and friend Tara’s similar desires put them in pursuit of men and situations that become too hot to handle. Flora and Jenny’s father Glenn is a widower, church janitor, and a genial b

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The Den Theatre, Wicker Park

Jet Black Chevrolet

The side project. By Scott T. Barsotti. Directed by Devon de Mayo. With Robert Koon, Diana Slickman, Kathryn Acosta. Running time: 1hr 15mins; no intermission. Theater review by Kevin Thomas A couch, two chairs, a window, and a coffeemaker enveloped by a shrine of used mugs. That’s the entire set for Jet Black Chevrolet, Scott T. Barsotti’s new play premiering as part of a two-play rep at the side project.The pajama-clad Sam and Catherine Curie (Robert Koon and Diana Slickman) have seemingly lost track of time. In a permanent state of either up-too-late or awake-too-early, the pair seesaw between Catherine’s fits of paranoia over the outside world and Sam’s aggressive indifference to anything beyond the couch. There are only two things in their tiny universe that matter: making more coffee, and the black car that’s suddenly parked in front of their house.Alternatingly comic, morose, indifferent, or unhinged, it takes time to realize that the Curies have a twentysomething son who is long missing and now presumed dead. Perhaps it's the trigger for their current thrall, though there are implications that they were off long before that. Barsotti’s script is often obscure to a fault. Information is withheld to generate mystery, rather than for a discernible reason. The Curies’ emotions—while faithfully acted—are so erratic that some grounding in their story would be welcome. But no details or reliable statements are forthcoming.While it strives for absurdism, the genre’s convent

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the side project, Chicago

We Three

the side project. By Mary Hamilton. Directed by Josh Sobel. With Stevie Chaddock, Ann James, Andy Luther, Adam Shalzi. Running time: 1hr 15mins; no intermission. Theater review by Kevin Thomas What happened when Grace saw the girl go under the ice?We Three, at the side project, takes a simple question and builds a complicated mystery. Grace (Ann James) insists she saw a young girl fall through the frozen river late one night. Her small town doubts the old woman when they fail to find a body. Meanwhile, her quiet neighbor Dustin (Adam Shalzi) may know something, but isn’t talking, and his hypochondriac friend Daisy (Stevie Chaddock) is becoming intrigued by the ambiguity of it all. As time goes on, more people insist they saw the unknown girl around town. They’re certain she was there. And now they’ll need a story to satisfy her disappearance.The mystery of the play isn’t what happened, but what’s happening. Mary Hamilton’s eerie, slow-burn script presents any number of threads to follow as it unfolds—is this a ghost story? A psychological thriller? A whodunit? Or just the story of three lonely, strange people? The uncertainty is held together by an ironclad structure, where scene configurations take place in precisely the same sequence throughout the show (Dustin and Daisy, Grace at home, Daisy at the doctor, Dustin at Grace’s home, Dustin and Daisy, Grace at Home...and so on). Like a metronome, We Three steadily ticks away while inviting rampant speculation aided by a few

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the side project, Chicago

Buddy Cop 2

Set in small-town Indiana in the 1980s, this 2010 piece by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen's of NYC's The Debate Society is a quirky tale of cops, cancer and Christmas cheer with a slightly sinister bent. In other words, don't fret over missing Buddy Cop 1. Cassy Sanders directs Pavement Group's Midwest premiere, with a cast featuring Cyd Blakewell, Joe Zarrow, Gabe Franken and Leah Raidt.

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Shining City

Critics' pick

Irish Theatre of Chicago at the Den Theatre. By Conor McPherson. Directed by Jeff Christian. With Brad Armacost, Coburn Goss, Shane Kenyon, Carolyn Kruse. Running time: 1hr 45mins; no intermission. Theater review by Dan Jakes One of the more interesting and telling sources of inspiration playwright Conor McPherson credits for his work is Newgrange, a prehistoric burial monument in his native Ireland. As he explained to Australian Stage, during a short window, the sun rises at a precise angle and illuminates the interior chamber with sunlight. Each winter solstice, a select few lottery winners experience an awe-inspiring beam break through, allegorically enough, the darkest night of the year. It's a visualization of the unlikely and mysterious sense of salvation that's a hallmark of McPherson's brilliant and often harrowing stories. Those include The Seafarer, recently produced by Irish Theatre of Chicago, and especially Shining City, now in production at the Den Theatre.Both dramas have a foot in the supernatural, but where The Seafarer's characters wrestle with their spiritual anguish in a literal sense, Shining City's are deprived of any similar certainty. John, a middle-aged widower (Brad Armacost in a searing performance that carries the show), is referred to a therapist, Ian (Coburn Goss), by a doctor after confessing experiencing hallucinations of his dead wife. Downtrodden by guilt over their drifting marriage—they weren't even speaking at the time of her death—John

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The Den Theatre, Wicker Park Until Sunday January 4 2015

Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer

Hell in a Handbag Productions' long-running affectionate parody of the stop-motion TV classic gives young Rudolph not a glowing nose but a fondness for ladies' clothing.

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Mary's Attic, Andersonville Until Friday January 2 2015

Land of Plenty

A restaurant owner has to justify her lack of profit to an investor in this debut from new theater company Tiger in the Bush, written and directed by co-artistic director Larry Bao.

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Raven Theatre, Edgewater

Frosty's Shakes and Dogs

Jack Frost's frosty attitude about excess Christmas spirit threatens to put a chill on celebrating at the North Pole in this new family musical from Li'l Buds Theatre Company, a sequel to last year's Those Silly Reindeer!

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Until Sunday December 28 2014

Ice Skating at Wentworth Park

Watch the planes fly out of Midway while you glide across the ice on the rink at Wentworth Park. If you're looking for something to do after your fingers are frozen, consider heading south for a beer at the 5 Rabbits Cerveceria. (See the park's website for ice rink hours.) Skate rentals are $6.

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Until Saturday February 28 2015

Ice Skating at McKinley Park

Located on Chicago's southwest side, McKinley Park's ice rink offers a slippery surface for skaters of all skill levels. When you're done skating, walk over to Bridgeport and get a hot pie from Pleasant House Bakery. (See the park's website for ice rink hours.) Skate rentals are $6.

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McKinley Park, Southwest Side Until Saturday February 28 2015

Ice Skating at Midway Plaisance Park

In the midst of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, the Midway Plaisance Park ice rink provides a scenic venue for skaters in Hyde Park. Facilities include a warming house, where you can heat up after an hour or two on the ice. (See the park's website for ice rink hours.) Skate rentals are $6.

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Midway Plaisance Skating Rink, Hyde Park Until Saturday February 28 2015

Ice Skating at Mt. Greenwood Park

Located near Berverly and Oak Lawn, the Mt. Greenwood Park ice rink offers a place for South Side skaters to gather. (See the park's website for ice rink hours.) Skate rentals are $6.

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Mt. Greenwood Park, Southwest Side Until Saturday February 28 2015

Ice Skating at Rowan Park

Just west of the Indiana border lies the Rowan Park ice rink, where you can skate and possibly catch a whiff of some fresh Zombie Dust being brewed. (See the park's website for ice rink hours.) Skate rentals are $6.

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Until Saturday February 28 2015

Ice Skating at Riis Park

Looking for somewhere to skate on the West Side of Chicago? Hop on a Fullerton bus and cart your blades over to Riis Park, where the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Rink awaits, complete with a warming trailer for frigid days. (See the park's website for ice rink hours.) Skate rental $6.

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Until Saturday February 28 2015

Ice Skating at Warren Park

For residents of Rogers Park, the Chicago Blackhawks ice rink at Warren Park is the ice skating venue of choice on the North Side of the city. It even has a warming house to keep you toasty on particularly chilly days. (See the park's website for ice rink hours.) Skate rentals are $6.

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Until Saturday February 28 2015

"Chicago Works: Sarah and Joseph Belknap"

Longtime collaborators Sarah and Joseph Belknap draw their inspiration from the skies, creating pieces inspired by distant planets and craters on the moon. Composed of sculptures, photography and videos, the MCA's latest Chicago Works exhibit delves into the otherworldly essence of the Belknaps' art.

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Until Tuesday February 24 2015

Winter WonderFest

Critics' pick

Navy Pier's annual indoor winter carnival returns with a selection of new activities, including a toboggan tunnel, winter mini golf and a 15-foot "snow tubing" hill. Returning attractions include the Blackhawks ice skating rink, a Ferris wheel and various carnival rides. Kids can also snap a picture with Santa or decorate a cookie.

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Until Sunday January 11 2015
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