Family Feuds to Femmes: This Month’s Best Theater Productions in Chicago

Barrel of Monkeys company members Deanna Myers, Rawson Vint, Meredith Milliron, Bradford Stevens and Mari Marroquin perform THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA, directed by Brandon Cloyd; Photo by Evan Hanover.

This month’s theater lineup includes performances that run the gamut from history-making femme figures to a clothing-optional spiritual retreat. With something for everyone, here are some top theater productions to check out in December.

This play sounds so fun. Security guards of a downtown Chicago retail store are under investigation after a violent encounter with a shoplifter. When pressed by their higher-ups, they must choose between doing what’s right and doing what’s expected. The young, diverse cast calls to me. I anticipate a show that will have me shaking my head at people just like me and my flawed, hopeful, well-intentioned friends.
Details: Through December 15 at Broken Nose Theatre

That’s Weird, Grandma
In its 18th-year, this show is a celebration of the imaginations of Chicago’s elementary school-aged young people. The ensemble gathers stories written by students, adapts them, performs them for the students and then performs them at The Neo-Futurists in Andersonville. I admire Barrel of Monkey’s student-centered process of creating theater that does not correct or shame students for incorrect spelling or poor grammar, but lifts up their creativity and imagination and brings their stories to life. We sorely need more of this kind of magic in our schools. Barrel of Monkeys was reacently featured in Ensemble-Made Chicago: A Guide to Devised Theater by Chloe Johnston and Coya Paz Brownrigg.
Details: Through December 22 at The Neo-Futurists

Plainclothes; Credit: Broken Nose Theatre

The Infinite Wrench
This is the perfect theater event to take someone who isn’t quite sure about theater or who may have the attention span of a hummingbird. The show is only an hour, and it features a diverse array of new, two-minute plays every week. It’s a great way to “meet” new writers, directors and actors as an audience and go through a raucus tour of theatrical genres, styles and tones. I always enjoy visiting The Neo-Futurists space; the decor and general ambience primes its audiences for raw, experimental, quirky theater in an intimate space. Take a friend or family member who never goes to theater!
Details: Through December 9 at The Neo-Futurists 

The Revolutionists
This is a must-see for feminists, writers, those who voted for Hillary, those who voted for Trump and those who did not vote at all. The Revolutionists is the story of four very different history-making femmes. One seeks blood. One seeks healing. One seeks expression. One seeks inclusion of other femmes of color in her nation’s notion of liberty. This play is timely and promises a deep dive into questions about art, violence and the role of the femme in the fight for liberation during a time of destruction.
Details: Through December 29 at Strawdog Theatre Company

An Oak Tree
Whoa. So here’s the deal with this play: one actor is a constant. This actor has rehearsed the play and knows it in and out. The other one shows up to the play not having even read or rehearsed. This second actor will discover the play along with the audience. I’m so excited about this, and I love that it’s going to be a show that begs to be seen again and again and again. Bravo.
Date: Through December 9 at Red Theater Chicago

The Revolutionists; Credit: Strawdog Theatre Company

Rightlynd is a must-see for all Chicagoans. Set in a fictional 51st ward of Chicago, it’s the first of Ike Holter’s seven-play Chicago saga and explores power, ambition, gentrification, idealism and its costs.
Date: Through December 23 at Victory Gardens Theater

Familiar, wrought by Danai Gurira (Eclipsed), is the story of a wedding-induced family feud. What more do you need to know? Go see it!
Date: Through January 13, 2019 at Steppenwolf Theatre

HeLa; Credit: Sideshow Theatre

I love everything that Sideshow does. I know they will do justice to the story of Henrietta Lacks, the source of HeLa, an immortal cell line developed from cervical cancer cells taken from Lacks just months before she died. This show promises a blend of science, history, Afrofuturism, an examination of the stuff we’re made of and who has the right to lay claim to it.
Date: Through December 23 at Sideshow Theatre

Small Mouth Sounds
This play is going to be awkward and so painfully real. I can’t wait. When six city slickers go into the woods to face their demons on a silent, clothing-optional spiritual retreat, you know things are going to get weird.
Date: Through December 9 at A Red Orchid Theatre