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Don't-Miss List September 6-12: Slapstick, magic and lady vets

'The Magic Parlour' brings a little spark to the Palmer House Hilton. (Courtesy of the theater)

Dueling Critics podcast, Friday September 7th, FREE!; on-air Wednesday September 12th between 9 and 10 a.m. on 91.5 FM and, FREE!

Check here Friday for the latest episode of our new Dueling Critics podcast, when we review a Play to be Named Later. If you missed our first episode, here's our review of Vitalist Theater's production of Pool (No Water).

Then on Wednesday we begin our new once-a-month schedule on Eight Forty-Eight with a review extravaganza: three at one blow. –KK

Handshake Uppercut at the Chicago Fringe Festival, Thursday September 6th at 7 p.m. in the basement at Americana Stage, 600 West Cermak; tickets $15 including the required $5 Fringe Fest button

Physical comedians John Leo and Jay Dunn have created a piece that seems to include something for everyone: Samuel Beckett for theater snobs, Buster Keaton for those of you who prefer movies, and the Marquis de Sade for those of you who prefer . . . well, you know. Working in the spirit (and with the recommendation!) of local favorites 500 Clown, they’ll spend 60 minutes displaying the essential cruelty of slapstick while making you laugh nonetheless. Words would only be superfluous. Final performances: Thursday at 7, Saturday the 8th at 8:30, and Sunday the 9th at 7. –KK

The Magic Parlour, Palmer House Hilton (Wabash entrance); 1-773-769-3832; $75; open run, Friday nights only, 8 and 10:30 p.m.

Part of the pleasure is the atmosphere: a plush little library-like room in an out-of-the-way corner of the Palmer House. Part of the pleasure is that drinks are included in the price. Part of the pleasure is the intimacy of the evening and the feeling that you're sharing a great secret that few others know about. But most of the pleasure is in the astonishing legerdemain of master magician Dennis Watkins, a founding member of the House Theatre of Chicago, the official presenter of The Magic Parlour. Watkins covers the waterfront with classic table top magic, from a card trick I used to know how to do when I was 12, to jaw-dropping mind-reading tricks of remarkable complexity, far beyond any familiar sleight-of-hand artistry. And he does it all with unflappable charm and wit. This is the show to see for a memorable evening. And dress up. –JA

Wrens, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5775 N. Ridge Avenue, Chicago; 1-773-334-7728; $30; through Oct. 13; free parking at Senn High School.

Has it been 17 years since the debut of the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, with a mission to explore the female experience? Rivendell opened at the Chicago Cultural Center with a play about the first female naval units in British history, the so-called Wrens of World War II. It was a world premiere by Scots-born, long-time Chicagoan Anne McGravie, who had been a Wren. It put Rivendell firmly on the map and on the map they've stayed. Now, less than a year after acquiring their first-ever permanent home, Rivendell is staging Wrens once again and —heavens be praised — Anne McGravie still walks among us to inspire us all. Obviously, the experience of women today in combat units is far different from their largely-segregated work in WWII, but the Wrens were the roots of today, just as Wrens helped plant Rivendell. –JA

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