3/7–4/13 A woman on the run provokes suspicion from a cleaning lady, a former high-school jock, and a local drug dealer in this Joshua Rollins–penned tale. $15–$30. Step Up Productions at the Athenaeum Studio Theatre, 2936 N Southport. stepupproductions.org

Gidion’s Knot

Through 3/9 In Johnna Adams’s wrenching two-hander, the suicide of a fifth grader leads to a combative confrontation between the grieving mother and the dead boy’s teacher—just the sort of unremittingly intense scene that Profiles excels at staging. $35–$40. Profiles Theatre’s Alley Stage, 4147 N Broadway. profilestheatre.org

Good Boys and True

3/11–5/3 A seemingly upstanding young prep school student gets ensnared in a scandal. Cody Estle directs Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s disquieting tale of privilege, power, and exploitation. $22–$36. Raven Theatre, 6157 N Clark. raventheatre.com

The Gospel of Lovingkindness

Through 3/30 Victory Gardens director Chay Yew oversees a piece that explores violence and hope on the South Side of Chicago in a story playwright Marcus Gardley says was inspired by both real contemporary events and Scripture. $20–$60. Victory Gardens Zacek McVay Theater, 2433 N Lincoln. victorygardens.org


Hedda Gabler

Through 3/16 Director Kimberly Senior (due to make her Broadway debut this year) teams up with leading lady Kate Fry for Ibsen’s scathing, tragic, and relentlessly unblinking look at a master manipulator struggling with middle-class malaise. $35–$70. Writers Theatre at Tudor Court, 325 Tudor, Glencoe. writerstheatre.org


The How and the Why

Through 4/6 Sarah Treem’s brainy take on genes, destiny, and the scientific mysteries surrounding menstruation and menopause centers on two brilliant biologists trying to figure out the evolutionary reasons for these two processes. Do not under any circumstances dismiss this as the stage equivalent of chick lit. $35–$48. TimeLine Theatre, 615 W Wellington. timelinetheatre.com

In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Through 3/9 At the height of the Cold War Commie scare of the 1950s, the U.S. government put physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer on trial to determine if he should retain his high-level security clearance. Taking dialogue directly from the transcripts of that hearing, playwright Heinar Kipphardt explores troubling matters of personal freedom versus public safety. $10–$20. Saint Sebastian Players at St. Bonaventure Church, 1625 W Diversey. saintsebastianplayers.org

Miss Marx, or The Involuntary Side Effect of Living

Through 3/29 Knotty dilemmas both physical and philosophical ensue when the common-law marriage of Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl) implodes and she falls in love with a married man. Friedrich Engels, among other memorable characters, weighs in on love and gender equity. $28. Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N Broadway. strawdogtheatre.com


Through 3/8 Teenage pregnancy, parental abandonment, substance abuse, sexual abuse, mental illness, adultery, and cattle ranching create a chorus of voices in Eric Schmiedl’s adaptation of Kent Haruf’s 2000 novel. Signal Ensemble’s self-described “resident hipster” Bries Vannon helms a script that calls for 21 actors and 36 characters. $15–$20. Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W Berenice. signalensemble.com

The Playboy of the Western World

Through 4/5 When John M. Synge’s troubling, poetic thriller premiered in 1907, audiences threw eggs at the stage and journalists condemned the play. Today’s critics consider this story of a handsome stranger whose arrival in rural County Mayo sets village tongues wagging an indisputable classic. Michael Menendian directs a near-perfect merger of eloquent language and enthralling plot. $22–$36. Raven Theatre, 6157 N Clark. raventheatre.com

Rites and Sacrifices

Through 3/23 Chicago’s Jennifer L. Mickelson pens a political drama adapted from Euripides’s tale of grieving wives fighting a brutal Theban monarch for the right to bury their dead. $15–$20. Idle Muse at Collaboraction Theatre, 1579 N Milwaukee. idlemuse.org


Russian Transport

Through 5/11 Break out the celebratory Stoli! Bulgarian-born Steppenwolf ensemble member Yasen Peyankov, an actor of no small talent, makes his debut as a director with playwright Erika Sheffer’s dark, twisting comedy about a Russian American family in Brooklyn whose lives are upended by a human-trafficking uncle. $20–$78. Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted. steppenwolf.org


3/26–4/27 Salvation seems at hand when a woman bearing a rare bit of sports memorabilia steps into a collectibles shop in Detroit. But windfalls come at a price, and this one just might be far costlier than it initially appears. Alison C. Vesely directs Joseph Zettelmaier’s dark comic two-person mystery. $22–$37. First Folio Theatre at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W 31st, Oak Brook. firstfolio.org


3/27–4/20 The Side Project joins forces with Tympanic Theatre Company for playwright Dan Caffrey’s “psycho-Western,” in which a father follows a trail of blood through the ghost towns of the American West in an attempt to understand the savagery of his murderous son. $10–$20. Side Project and Tympanic Theatres at the Side Project, 1539 W Jarvis. thesideproject.net


3/20–5/11 Playwright Esther Armah uncorks a powder keg of race, class, and gender issues in the tale of a liberal white community activist who files a reverse discrimination suit alleging he was passed over for promotion in favor of a black woman. $30. ETA Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S South Chicago. etacreativearts.org

Sons of the Prophet

Through 3/9 Incorporating chapter headings from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, the playwright Stephen Karam creates a portrait of troubled Lebanese American brothers left to care for their ailing uncle after their father dies in a car accident. $33–$43. American Theater Company, 1909 W Byron. atcweb.org

Strangers, Babies

Through 3/1 Linda McLean wrote this disturbing drama exploring the life of a woman who committed a heinous act as a child. $20–$22. Steep Theatre, 1115 W Berwyn. steeptheatre.com

A Tale of Two Cities

Through 4/6 Lifeline stages another sweeping epic with Elise Kauzlaric’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s tome. The complex dual-city saga follows soldiers, servants, aristocrats, and rebels in love and war as the Reign of Terror engulfs late-18th-century Paris and social upheaval roars through London. If anyone in Chicago can pull off this kind of massive literary endeavor, it’s Lifeline. $20–$40. Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N Glenwood. lifelinetheatre.com

Three Soldiers (For Sisters)

Through 3/23 Aaron Sawyer directs his own play, using a mix of realism and expressionism to focus on a trio of soldiers who become obsessed with Chekhov’s tragicomic Three Sisters. $10–$20. Red Theatre at the Den Theater, 1333 N Milwaukee. redtheater.org


Tristan and Yseult

3/30–4/13 From Cornwall, England, comes Kneehigh Theatre’s idiosyncratic and passionate telling of love, war, betrayal, and tragic misapprehensions. Think Shakespeare sprinkled with acrobatics, a live orchestra, and a liberal dose of storytelling alchemy and you might have an inkling of the wonders in store here. $20–$78. Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E Grand. chicagoshakes.com, kneehigh.co.uk


Venus in Fur

3/8–4/13 Given that playwright David Ives’s inspiration was Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s seminal novel Venus in Furs, one can assume that the Goodman’s latest will be kinky. And so it is, as Vanda, a mysterious actress, and Thomas, a snarling director, go head to head during an audition for a show the actress dismisses as “basically . . . porn.” Chicagoan Joanie Schultz, an increasingly high-profile director, helms a tale of seduction and stagecraft. $25–$86. Goodman Albert Theatre, 170 N Dearborn. goodmantheatre.org

Water by the Spoonful

3/6–4/6 Quiara Alegría Hudes won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for this play, the second installment in her trilogy following the fate of a fictitious Iraqi war vet named Elliot Ortiz. Henry Godinez directs a narrative of multiple layers, as Elliot’s struggles with civilian life are juxtaposed with the struggles of four recovering crack addicts. $35–$65. Court Theatre, 5535 S Ellis. courttheatre.org