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The best of what's left for Chicago Theatre Week

Written by
Kris Vire
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With a few days remaining in this year's Chicago Theatre Week, some participating shows have sold out their allotments. (If you've been holding out on Blue Man Group for 20-plus years so you could see it at a Theatre Week discount, you've missed your chance, sorry.) But there's still plenty worth taking advantage of: Let's make some last-minute picks by category. Also check out our complete guide to Chicago Theatre Week, and get your tickets while you can at ChicagoTheatreWeek.com.

FOR KIDS

Blue Planet The stage adaptation of Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason’s award–winning eco-lit children’s book, The Story of the Blue Planet, receives its United States premiere in Akvavit Theatre's production. The performance incorporates puppetry and traditional elements of storytelling with aerial dance and object work for a message–conscious, family–friendly spectacle.

James and the Giant Peach Filament Theatre Ensemble brings Roald Dahl's classic fantasy story to life in a production featuring original music, puppetry and circus-style spectacle. The family-friendly show is appropriate for kids 4 and up.

The Selfish Giant Chicago Children's Theatre remounts Blair Thomas & Co.'s 2008 work based on the Oscar Wilde story about a grumpy giant and the children who bring the Spring back to his garden. It's performed by puppeteer Sam Deutsch with live music by Michael Smith.

FOR MUSICAL LOVERS

First Wives Club This new musical adaptation of the 1996 film comedy about a trio of divorcées seeking revenge on their rotten exes has designs on a Broadway bow after its Chicago tryout. It stars Tony winner Faith Prince, Chicago's own Christine Sherrill and Wicked's Carmen Cusack as Brenda, Elise and Annie—the roles played in the movie by Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton, respectively—and you can see them weeks before the critics do at Chicago Theatre Week prices.

Next Thing You Know Four New Yorkers in their 20s muddle through quarterlife crises in this 2011 musical by Ryan Cunningham and Joshua Salzman. It's the inaugural production of Refuge Theatre Project, a new musical-focused company.

Ordinary Days BoHo Theatre stages the Chicago premiere of an urban romcom song cycle by up-and-coming musical theater composer Adam Gwon. Jason A. Fleece directs.

BRAINY COMEDIES

Barbecue Apocalypse Suburban social anxiety over impressing the neighbors gives way to simple survival when the apocalypse hits midway through Mike and Deb's backyard barbecue. Thomas Murray directs the Ruckus's Chicago premiere of Matt Lyle's dark comedy.

Mr. Burns, a post-electric play Playwright Anne Washburn uses The Simpsons classic episode "Cape Feare" as a jumping-off point for a trippy but persuasive post-apocalyptic paean to story’s power in our perseverance. The show features music by Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson); Theater Wit's Chicago premiere is deftly played out by a crack ensemble of young Chicago actors under Jeremy Wechsler’s direction.

Rapture, Blister, Burn Gina Gionfriddo wades through waves of feminism in a smart new take on having it all. Gionfriddo’s comedy receives an incisive Chicago premiere via the overdue Goodman directing debut of Kimberly Senior and a finely tuned cast.

GREAT ENSEMBLES

Accidentally, Like a Martyr A slice of gay-bar life grapples movingly with how we deal with grief. Grant James Varjas's newly extended Chicago premiere at A Red Orchid, directed by Shade Murray, features impeccable teamwork by the cast of Doug Vickers, Layne Manzer, David Cerda, Dominique Worsley, Troy West, Steve Haggard and Luce Metrius.

Marie Antoinette Alana Arenas delivers a stunning performance as the fashionable young queen of France in David Adjmi's stylish, modern riff. Robert O'Hara directs the Chicago premiere, which also features Tim Hopper, Alan Wilder, Matthew Abraham, Tim Frank, Keith D. Gallagher, Mark Page, Tamberla Perry, Ericka Ratcliff and Ariel Shafir.

Samsara Three expectant parents await the arrival of their child in Lauren Yee's savvy and affecting piece about modern reproduction. It’s Behzad Dabu’s quick-witted, magnetic performance as the still-cooking kid, manifesting to his surrogate mother as a young Indian man in short pants, that dazzles most. But Yee, director Seth Bockley and a gung ho cast including Arya Daire, Joe Dempsey, Lori Myers and Jeff Parker ensure every character is fully drawn.

AVANT-GARDE ADVENTURE

Endgame The Hypocrites' Halena Kays tackles the existential absurdity of Samuel Beckett's Hamm and Clov (and don't forget the parents in the garbage cans). Kays's production features Kurt Ehrmann as Hamm and Brian Shaw as Clov, with Donna McGough and Sean Sinitski as Nell and Nagg.

Music Hall Jeffrey Binder, Michael Doonan and Darren Hill portray fading cabaret artists in TUTA Theatre Chicago's U.S. premiere of this challenging comedy by French writer Jean-Luc Lagarce. Zeljko Djukic's production will transfer to an Off Broadway run at 59E59 Theaters later this spring.

The Walk Across America for Mother Earth This piece by the performance artist Taylor Mac combines influences from drag, commedia dell'arte and other forms to tell the tale of a protest march across the country, and the elusiveness of utopian ideals. Bonnie Metzgar directs Red Tape Theatre's Chicago premiere as part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep.

SKETCH AND IMPROV

Apes of Wrath The Second City e.t.c's 38th revue has transitioned in new cast members for its upcoming (and still-unnamed) 39th, set to debut in April. That means that at the moment, you can see terrific newbies Lisa Beasley, Rashawn Scott and Scott Morehead join cast vets Carisa Barreca, Eddie Mujica and Tim Ryder to perform Apes of Wrath, and stick around for a third act to see them trying out scenes for the new revue.

Panic on Cloud 9 The Second City's 103rd mainstage revue delivers solid sketches from a terrific cast, including Chelsea Devantez, John Hartman, Paul Jurewicz, Daniel Strauss, Christine Tawfik and Emily Walker.

Trigger Happy A series of unrelated scenes inspired by one suggestion from the audience are connected via an invisible language that the cast shares, causing certain events to be triggered in the Annoyance's new long-form improv show, created and directed by Mick Napier.

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