The 'Nutcracker' is back, without the ballet but with puppets

November 10, 2011

Kelly Kleiman

If you just can't wait for the frigid days to come, check out tonight's opening of Adam Rapp's icy drama Red Light Winter at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. Rapp, who on the basis of this Obie Award-winning offering might be competing with Neil LaBute for the Contemporary Misanthropic Playwright prize, is nonetheless a smart and agile writer whose bleak view of the world can't be dismissed.  Through December 18 at Angel Island, the upstairs theater at 735 West (note, West) Sheridan Road; tickets $18-$22 but only $11 tomorrow (11/11/11). No one under 18 will be admitted.

Something a bit more pleasantly in keeping with the season, you say? Try Fa-La-La-La F*ck It! at Annoyance, opening Saturday at 10 p.m. and running in that slot through December 23. This comedy of family breakdown brought on by the holidays---which succeeds, though it probably can't replace, Annoyance's beloved long-running Co-Ed Prison Sluts---is only one of many which will grace our stages in the weeks to come, but Annoyance gets points for being first. And there's something to be said for getting your Xmas angst out of the way before Thanksgiving. The theater's at 4830 N. Broadway; tickets are $15, $10 for students. All ages admitted, but parents shouldn't blame the theater if the kiddies hear something crude.

And on Sunday comes the formal opening of House Theatre's version of The Nutcracker, a ballet-free rendition of the weird tale of the kitchen implement which becomes a prince (or whatever the hell the story is). This reprise of last year's human-puppet collaboration features original music and "spellbinding spectacle," or so says the press release. Thursdays-Sundays through December 30 at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division; tickets are $25, but only $10 for students.  

Laura Molzahn

Adam Rose is not your everyday choreographer—or your everyday guy. A quintessential soloist, he delivers no-holds-barred performances based on apocalyptic scenarios. “The human is about to mutate to something other,” he says on his website about his newest piece, a trio, Holocene Overkill (Phase 2). “It’s our own choice as individuals whether we want to jump off the cliff with humankind or take our chances with whatever biological escape plan we can scrape together.” Friday and Saturday at Defibrillator gallery.

Ever lost yourself on the dance floor? If not, it belongs on your bucket list. Meida McNeal’s The Sweet Goddess Project explores that transcendental state as well as the sensual role that women play in the culture of house music and dance. Four performers and DJ Jo de Presser perform Thursday, Friday, and Sunday at Experimental Station.

Choreographer Liz Lerman never pulls her punches, never backs off a subject. In The Matter of Origins, she tackles nothing less than the physical and philosophical beginnings of the universe. The second act is a sort of salon, or “tea,” that seats audiences at tables for conversation. And chocolate cake, using a recipe from Edith Warner, who hosted atomic-bomb scientists at her Los Alamos roadhouse restaurant. Thursday through Sunday at the MCA. 

Jonathan Abarbanel

“May the Farce be with you,” and with Mark Sleepwalker as well. This mantra indicates that Evanston’s Piccolo Theatre once again is presenting a British-style panto for the holiday season, this time Space Wars, a world premiere by Jessica Puller. It’s not a pantomime, mind you, but an audience-interactive fantasy musical comedy with particular traditions which originated in English 19th Century family entertainment. Those traditions may include a “britches role” in which a girl plays the lead boy, and a “Dame” in which a man plays a Gorgon of an old woman. Pack up the kids (even ones as young as four) for Space Wars, which continues at the Evanston Arts Depot through Dec. 17.

Premiere Theatre and Performance is offering a new staging of its 2008 hit, Seven Doors, by prolific contemporary German playwright Botho Strauss, translated by Peter K. Jansen. Usually described as a dark comedy, the play offers nine vignettes of contemporary life and, most significantly, what may lie beyond. Remember, seven always has been a number with particular spiritual and mystical potency. Premiere Theatre and Performance is one of the few local troupes (Trap Door is a significant other) dedicated to bringing Chicago audiences contemporary European drama beyond London’s West End or the boulevard theatres of Paris. Seven Doors is performed at DANK Haus, 4740 N. Western, through Dec. 11.