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Esteban Schemberg and Cruz Gonzalez Cadel in in Teatro Vista’s world premiere of Stephanie Allen Walker’s “The Abuelas.” (Photo credit: Joel Maisonet)

Stephanie Alison Walker’s new play serves as a chilling reminder of a particularly horrific period in Argentina’s history when, from 1976 to 1983, that nation was under the thumb of a brutal military dictatorship.

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Giorgio Berrugi and Albina Shagimuratova in “La Traviata” at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Credit: Lyric Opera of Chicago)

The beauty of this production goes beyond the absolute glory of Giuseppe Verdi’s impassioned, vocally demanding score. And while the voices are uniformly superb, so is the almost conversational style of acting.

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From left: David Alan Anderson, Kelvin Roston, Jr. and A.C. Smith in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at Writers Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

The harmonies, dissonances and inflections of the conversations among the four men who form Ma Rainey’s fractious band are something of a spoken-word blues opera in this Writers Theatre revival.

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Sandra Marquez and Yasen Peyankov in Steppenwolf’s Chicago premiere production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

This sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s groundbreaking play – now receiving its Chicago debut at Steppenwolf Theatre – arrives at a moment when a whole new tsunami-like wave of feminist rebellion has gathered force.

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Blake Hammond, left, and Jake Morrissy in “The Producers” at Paramount Theatre. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

For all its retrograde tropes, Jim Corti’s envelope-pushing (yet entirely faithful) take on Mel Brooks’ 2001 musical feels more contemporary, necessary and dangerously funny than ever before.

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Nina Stemme in Lyric Opera’s production of “Elektra.” (Credit: Cory Weaver)

Lyric Opera’s production of “Elektra,” last seen here in 2012, has found its ideal cast this time around with singers whose spectacular, powerhouse voices are matched by superb acting skills.

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David Darlow in “The Father” (Photo by Michael Courier)

The harrowing realism of “The Father” finesses a remarkable feat of imagination that makes the audience experience the same disorientation, confusion and anger that accompany the protagonist’s own loss of clarity and memory. 

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Linda Reiter and H.B. Ward in Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit’s Chicago premiere of “The Realistic Joneses.” (Photo by Evan Hanover)

Hedy Weiss reviews a production that imagines what happens when two couples of different ages – plagued by similar problems of communication and neurological degeneration – attempt to interact. Plus, a play-turned-production that shines a light on visionary chemist Dr. Rosalind Franklin. 

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Ariel Richardson, left, and Sydney Charles in Christina Ham’s play “Nina Simone: Four Women” at Northlight Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Christina Ham’s play, “Nina Simone: Four Women,” is the anatomy of a song. And by extension, it is the anatomy of the angry, emotionally wounded singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist who wrote it.

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Matt Crowle and Rachel Klippel in Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.” (Photo by Michael Courier)

Not even the polar vortex could deter the performers and audience as Porchlight Music Theatre opened its altogether bravura production this week. This brilliantly conceived and equally brilliantly performed show was meant to defy the odds on every count.

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Chaon Cross plays Dr. Rosalind Franklin in Anna Ziegler’s “Photograph 51” at Court Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Anna Ziegler’s play, now in a biting, emotionally vivid production at Court Theatre, shines a light on the visionary chemist who was crucial to the momentous scientific paper explaining the molecular structure of DNA.

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“L’Apres-Midi d’un Foehn, Version I,” left, and “Us/Them” are currently on stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The work of two theater companies – one from Belgium and the other from France – are paying all-too-brief visits to Chicago Shakespeare Theater stages at the moment. 

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“The Queen of Spades” (Felix Sanchez / Houston Grand Opera)

Productions of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” and the Chicago debut of “Dead Man Walking” are among the highlights of Lyric Opera’s 2019-2020 season.

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From left: Joseph Wiens, Cortney McKenna, H.B. Ward and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit’s Chicago premiere of “The Realistic Joneses.” (Photo by Evan Hanover)

In a joint production by Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit, director Jeremy Wechsler and his cast have tapped into the deftly conjured, fragmented, offbeat rhythms of Will Eno’s characters with impressive skill.

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Cast of “Ajijaak on Turtle Island”; An IBEX Puppetry production directed by Ty Defoe and Heather Henson (© 2018 Richard Termine)

A sampling of a trio of shows conveyed a strong sense that puppets have the power to take on the most vivid existences, even as their human puppeteers project powerful profiles of their own.

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Cast of "Noises Off" (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

The show, which is literally breathtaking and a breathtakingly funny production by Windy City Playhouse, is a bravura exercise in extreme mental and physical comedy.

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