The Ten

Don’t-miss picks for September 20 through September 26, 2018

1 Concert for Chicago

Classical:The Chicago Symphony Orchestra kicks off its season with its annual free concert — back at Millennium Park, where past performances had been so packed that park staffers turned away even some early birds. Music director Riccardo Muti leads two famous overtures — Rossini’s William Tell and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 — sandwiching an operatic excerpt from Verdi, a guy Muti literally wrote the book on.
FREE 9/20 at 6:30 p.m. Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

2 Downstate

Theater:Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Norris’s world premiere explores the postprison lives of sex offenders trying to figure out a way to survive in a society that shuns them. The characters confront the limits of forgiveness and a road to redemption that might be a dead end.
9/20–11/4. $44–$80. Steppenwolf Theatre.

3 Nell Gwynn

Theater:From heckler to star to king-adjacent power player, 17th-century actress Nell Gwynn was among the first women to (legally) take the stage in England. Her story — which includes a long-term liaison with King Charles — drew the ire of the Crown’s courtiers and the male actors she put out of work. She persisted nevertheless, succeeding on her own terms onstage and off. Christopher Luscombe directs the Olivier Award–winning script by British playwright Jessica Swale.
9/20–11/4. $60–$88. Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

4 Diet Cig

Rock:This pop-punk band from New York is as goofy and wild onstage as it is on record and on its Twitter page, which forgoes press information in favor of sporadic, off-the-cuff insight into the two silly minds that make songs with titles like “Pool Boyz” and “Tummy Ache.”
9/21 at 9 p.m. $16–$18. Lincoln Hall.

5 Apple Fest

Festival:In addition to regular street-fair food, merchants at this fall fest sell all sorts of pomaceous treats, from apple cider doughnuts to apple lattes. The highlight of the annual event might be the apple-pie-eating contest, where contestants have to scarf down a whole pastry without using their hands.
9/21–23. $5. Old McHenry and Robert Parker Coffin.

6 Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival

Dance:Though groups such as Aerial Dance Chicago are on the bill, this showcase is noteworthy for the solo performers shining outside their companies: Corinne Imberski (ReDance), Jessica Miller Tomlinson (formerly of Thodos Dance), Michel Rodriguez Cintra (Lucky Plush), and others get to stretch their choreographic wings.
9/21–29. $25. Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

7 Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Classical:The orchestra’s first three weekends of (indoor) concerts whirl out under the baton of Riccardo Muti, entering his ninth season as music director. Muti’s first program combines two Soviet composers, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. The second ties chestnuts by Mozart to one by Rimsky-Korsakov, his violin-tagged Scheherazade. The third conjoins Beethoven, Brahms, and the 20th-century modernist Paul Hindemith. The Symphony Ball concert and gala rounds up the city’s ballers on October 6.
9/21–10/6. $15–$120. Symphony Center.

8 Indecent

Theater:In 1923, the Broadway debut of God of Vengeance set off a firestorm of condemnation — its lesbian love story was regarded as filth by both critics and audiences. Pulitzer winner Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive) has seven actors and three musicians playing more than 40 roles as they re-create the events surrounding the play and dramatize the heroism of artists who risked their careers and even their lives to bring God of Vengeance to the stage.
9/21–11/4. $20–$65. Victory Gardens Theatre.

9 J. Cole

Hip-Hop:In recent years (and especially on KOD, his fifth studio album), this emcee has doubled down on his signature earnestness, grappling with the culture of drug abuse, addiction, and depression that has gripped the minds of popular Gen-Z SoundCloud rappers and their fans. As always, Cole runs the risk of being too preachy in his verses, but he is able to rein it in, for the most part, with bursts of self-reflection.
9/22 at 7:30 p.m. $80–$563. Allstate Arena.

10 Hairy Who? 1966-1969

Art:There was something delightfully weird about the Hairy Who, the first distinctive art movement to emerge from Chicago in the 1960s. The era was marked by urban grit, social tension, and sexual liberties, so Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Falconer, Art Green, and their peers responded with an unrestrained take on the city’s blues scene, smutty streetwalkers, and surreal flea market finds. This is the first major survey of their work, with more than 200 pieces representing an astonishing vision.
9/26–1/6. $14–$25. Art Institute of Chicago.