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Kevin Webb in Black Button Eyes Productions’ world premiere of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier.” (Photo by Cole Simon)

One thing you realize from the very start of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier” is that its narrator – a dissipated, devilishly twisted writer – is not going to sugarcoat things. 

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Liam Quealy as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in “Memphis” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Nothing more concisely captures the impressive scope of the work done on Chicago-area stages than this annual list of nominations.

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From left: Aurora Adachi-Winter, Ian Michael Minh, Matthew Yee in “Vietgone.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Qui Nguyen’s play, now receiving its Chicago premiere at Writers Theatre, is a second generation, rap-era kid’s flashy, sexually charged version of a story about the pain and rage that come with being a refugee, and the difficult process of assimilation. 

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Chicago Dance Crash (Credit: Ashley Deran)

As always, the annual benefit concert served up a rich smorgasbord of styles Saturday. It also offered a subtle suggestion of Chicago’s dance history.

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Carlos Kalmar (Photo: Patrick Pyszka)

As difficult as it may be to believe, the summer of 2018 is winding down. One significant marker: the Grant Park Music Festival will give the final performances of its 84th season on Saturday.

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Collin Quinn Rice, left, and Raphael Diaz in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of “The Harvest” by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Jonathan Berry. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Broken souls grasp for meaning and connection in Samuel D. Hunter’s intense play that unfolds in a dreary church basement in the small town of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

A roundup of recent concerts from the Ravinia Festival

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A scene from “Mass” (Russell Jenkins / Ravinia Festival)

As visitors to the Ravinia Festival well know, the picnics on the grass staged there tend to be legendary feasts. But it is the musical feasts that are the real food for thought.

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From left: Theo Huff (obscured), Rick Stone, Dwight Neal, Lamont “Harmonica Man” Harris, Cynthia Carter and Rhonda Preston in “Rick Stone the Blues Man” at Black Ensemble Theater. (Credit: Alan Davis)

In her deftly crafted new show, “Rick Stone the Blues Man,” writer/director Jackie Taylor has devised a wonderfully engaging way to explore the full spectrum of blues classics.

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Knute Rockne (Stef Tovar) fires up the Notre Dame football team. (Credit: Justin Barbin)

In spinning the tale of Knute Rockne and his prize athlete, the creators of this terrific show have tapped into much grander themes than the nature of intensely competitive college football.

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Zachary Stevenson and Molly Hernandez in “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Broadway Playhouse. (Credit: Brett Beiner)

Theater critic Hedy Weiss gives us her take on a Tennessee Williams classic, an Elvis musical full of glitz and hits and more on Chicago-area stages.

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Stacy Keach in the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s “Pamplona,” directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. (Credit Liz Lauren)

A little more than a year after he suffered “a mild heart attack” midway through his opening night performance in “Pamplona,” Stacy Keach is in top form. 

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From left: Matt Codina, Eddie Clendening, Jamie Pittle and Zach Lentino in “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Broadway Playhouse. (Credit: Brett Beiner)

Too often this Elvis Presley-focused prequel to “Million Dollar Quartet” homes in on material that might have been cut from that earlier show. But on the plus side, it infuses the story with much that was omitted from “Quartet.”

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Jason Grimm, left, and Noel Carey star in “Murder for Two” at the Marriott Theatre. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

The real question at the heart of this 95-minute, music-infused marathon of a farce – which features two actors playing 13 characters and frequently sharing time at a piano – is whether the performers themselves will make it out alive.

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Anthony Bowden and Genevieve Angelson in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Credit: Brett Beiner Photograpahy)

In the feverish intensity of its emotions alone, this Tennessee Williams revival directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge is grand opera from start to finish. 

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Brian Mengler, Josh Hills, Jonathan Zeng, Nick Cuellar, Athena Kopulos, Emma Sorenson and Alfredo Jimenez in “The Csardas Princess.”

What is most impressive about this romantic comedy, the first work to be produced in Folks Operetta’s “Reclaimed Voices” series, is the exceptional beauty of the voices in the show’s large cast, and the performers’ comic swagger.

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Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in “Waitress.” (Credit: Joan Marcus)

Director Diane Paulus taps into the pain and high comedy of the story, but Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre is far too big a venue for this essentially intimate show.