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What to See in Chicago: Scary Cheerleaders, PDA, The Motherf**ker With the Hat and More

We bring you this season's five must-see Chicago shows.

John Ortiz and Sandra Delgado in The Motherf**ker With the Hat
(© Michael Brosilow)
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Who: By Rajiv Joseph, directed by Heidi Stillman.
What: Two United States Marines and an Iraqi translator are thrust into a world of greed, mystery and betrayal after an encounter with a now-deceased, but still very pissed-off, tiger. The streets of war-torn Baghdad are filled with ghosts, riddles, and wry humor in this ground-breaking play that explores the power and perils of human nature.
Where: Lookingglass Theatre, at Chicago's Water Tower Water Works.
When: January 30-March 17.
Why: Lookingglass tends to mesmerize, challenge, and certainly entertain their audiences. This intriguing play, a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, has been described as "savagely funny," "majestic," "topical," and "daring" in reviews. The combination of content and company puts Bengal Tiger at the top of my list this winter.

For tickets to Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, click here.

The Motherf**ker With the Hat
Who: By Stephen Adly Guirgis, and directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro, who also directed the acclaimed Broadway premiere.
What: Things are looking up for recovering alcoholic Jackie and his girlfriend Veronica—until Jackie spots another man's hat in their apartment and embarks on a sublimely incompetent quest for vengeance. Fast-paced and uproarious, The Motherf**ker is a gleefully foul-mouthed look at modern love and other addictions.
Where: Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theatre.
When: Currently running through March 3.
Why: Sandra Marquez (who is also my sassy professor) stars in this production that Steppenwolf calls "an honest, authentic mash-up of poetry and profanity (that's a lotta fun)." I am also anxious to get back to Steppenwolf after seeing their gritty, funny, and thought-provoking production of Good People last fall.

For tickets to The Motherf**ker With the Hat, click here.

There Is a Happiness That Morning Is
Who: By Mickle Maher, featuring Diana Slickman, Colm O'Reilly, and Kirk Anderson.
What: This is a comedy in rhymed verse told via two lectures on the poetry of William Blake: one given in the morning by Bernard, a middle-aged, barely published poet of scant scholarship, on the Songs of Innocence, and the other in the afternoon by his lover, Ellen, a reputable Ph.D., on the Songs of Experience. After an evening of highly inappropriate public displays of affection on the main lawn of their rural New England campus, the two undergraduate lecturers must now, in class, either apologize for their behavior or effectively justify it -- if they want to keep their jobs.
Where: Theater Oobleck, presented at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater.
When: January 31-March 10.
Why: The format of this show sounds really cool, and the ticket price is an affordable $15 suggested donation: "More if you got it, free if you're broke."

For tickets to There Is a Happiness That Morning Is, click here.

Bud, Not Buddy
Who: Based on the Newberry winning novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, adapted by Reginald Andre Jackson, and directed by Derrick Sanders.
What: Bud, Not Buddy follows the journey of a young African-American orphan as he searches for his father. Clues kept in a suitcase lead him to adventures in Depression-era Michigan, where he finds community among a group of jazz musicians and, ultimately, an unexpected sense of home.
Where: Chicago Children's Theatre, presented at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.
When: January 12-February 24.
Why: First of all, I read and loved this book as a kid. Listed as "ideal for ages 8+," Jackson's stage adaptation won the Distinguished Play Award from The American Alliance for Theater and Education in 2010, so I'm expecting a fantastic adaptation. Friday performances even feature pre-show jazz concerts!

For tickets to Bud, Not Buddy, click here.

She Kills Monsters
Who: By Qui Nguyen, directed by Scott Weinstein.
What: Agnes's life is turned upside down when she stumbles upon her late sister's Dungeons & Dragons notebook. As she embarks on an action-packed quest to save her sister's soul, Agnes comes face to face with homicidal fairies, raunchy ogres and blood thirsty cheerleaders, and discovers a side of herself she never knew existed.
Where: Buzz22 Chicago, presented as part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep Season.
When: February 15-April 21.
Why: According to Steppenwolf's synopsis, "Qui Nguyen's touching comedy combines real life, fantasy and 90's pop culture in the search for the badass in us all." Buzz22 Chicago is an up-and-coming new company and this artistic team includes a bunch of young alumni from Northwestern. I've seen some really outstanding work from them before. And of course, as a child of the '90s I'll enjoy any show that includes 90's pop culture.

For tickets to She Kills Monsters, click here.