If you're up for a musical this weekend with some contemporary relevance, hold off on "White Noise" 'til you've seen our Dueling Critics debate on the subject, and instead catch the final weekend of "Meet John Doe", the Porchlight Theatre production at Stage 773 (formerly the Theater Building). Before it closes on Sunday, immerse yourself in this fine musical adaptation of the Frank Capra movie about what unemployment does to each and all of us. The 1930s look is the only thing separating this beautifully orchestrated and sung show from utter torn-from-the-headlines immediacy. 8:00 Friday and Saturday; final performance at 2:30 Sunday.
Or, if your taste is more literary than musical, here's another one to catch before it closes: Northlight's lovely "Sense and Sensibility". The worst that can be said about this show is that it's not absolutely perfect, like the Emma Thompson movie; but it's damned close. For a Jane Austen piece there's plenty of action, including a romantic rescue on the moors and a daring ride to fetch mother to a deathbed; but for the most part the show respects the quiet milieu in which it operates, the better to set off the talents of Heidi Kettenring and Helen Sadler as the sisters who embody the titular traits. 7:30 tonight, 8:00 on Friday, 2:30 and 8:00 on Saturday; final performance 2:30 on Sunday. At the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
Catch the ingenious queen of postmodern dance this weekend at the MCA. You can even see her—well, her company—for almost free in the galleries on April 16. Just pay the suggested cost of museum admission. Though Trisha Brown is the only Judson Church choreographer to have established and maintained a high profile over the last 40 years, I wouldn’t say she’s flourished because her work is accessible—it’s often as abstract and heady as the MCA’s art. But it has evolved in an accessible direction. One of Brown’s newest dances, “Les yeux et l’ame,” is in the theater as well as a couple of older works and 1990’s “Foray Foret,” performed against Robert Rauschenberg’s backdrop to the sounds of a live but distant marching band. Classy.
Silent film and hip-hop come together in Chicago Dance Crash’s new “The Trials of Busta Keaton.” Choreographer Christopher Courtney (“Qwan Sauce!”) pays homage to wordless comedy, especially slapstick, in an evening-length work designed to catch the sepia tones of Keaton and Chaplin vehicles. Expect explosive dancing, including an admixture of ballet and contemporary styles, and loud music.
I'm always a sucker for something with a history angle so I'm attracted to Naomi Wallace's "One Flea Spare", about the Black Plague in 17th Century London. It's a comedy, albeit a dark one. "One Flea Spare" opens the 2011 season for Eclipse Theatre Company, which devotes each year to the work of one author. Former Eclipse artistic director Anish Jethmalani is the capable director. Eclipse performs at the Greenhouse complex on Lincoln Avenue where "One Flea Spare" runs through May 22.
Realism is the meat-and-potatoes of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and that's what you'll find the Steppenwolf Ensemble doing in its own work. But Steppenwolf offers a wild exercise in meta-theatricality in the Garage Rep, presenting three junior Off-Loop troupes in diverse non-realistic works: "Heddatron" (Sideshow Theatre Company), "Sonnets for an Old Century" (Urban Theatre Company) and "The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen" (Strange Tree Group), the last being my personal favorite. The Garage Rep continues at Steppenwolf's Merle Reskin Garage Theatre through April 24.
Note: Jonathan Abarbanel's picks were updated after publication time.