Bailey on the Rocks
All right, so it’s as clichéd as fruitcake; still, It’s a Wonderful Life encapsulates the spirit of the holidays. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with corny rehashings and cable reruns. This season, two theatres offer creative interpretations of the Frank Capra classic worth catching. American Theater Company (1909 W. Byron St.; 773-929-1031) spins the sentimental fable as a radio play, complete with commercial breaks, live sound effects, and a wholesome snack of milk and cookies after the show. Tickets are $40. Meanwhile, George Bailey sings his sorrows (and triumphs) in Porchlight Music Theatre’s production at Theatre Building Chicago (1225 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-327-5252), adapted from the musical by the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning Sheldon Harnick. Tickets are $35; $34 on Fridays. Both shows run through December 30th.

And a bonus for theatre-goers: We just caught wind of this great Google Maps mashup from Theatre in Chicago. Check it out.

Best Bets for Things to Do This Week

• Alan Ball, American Beauty screenwriter and creator of HBO’s Six Feet Under, knows a thing or two about depicting fractured Americana. Catch his work offscreen with the staging of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, a comedy about a gaggle of bridesmaids who’d rather skip the ceremony, at Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted St.; 773-661-0938). The play runs through December 8th. Tickets are $15 to $20.

• See what all the Oscar buzz is about with a sneak peek of the new John Cusack flick, Grace is Gone, about an Iraq war widower. The film screens 6 p.m. Tuesday the 4th at Landmark Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.; 312-642-4222) as part of the ongoing Midwest Film Festival and includes pre-show cocktails at 6 p.m. Get tickets, $10, at

• Improvisers who can sustain one hour of comedy—let alone 24 continuous hours—have our respect. Factor in an effort to help needy kids, and we’re downright reverent. The comedy showcase Letters to Santa runs 7 p.m. Tuesday the 4th through 7 p.m. Wednesday the 5th at Second City e.t.c. (1608 N. Wells St.; 312-337-3992). Tickets, $10, are available at the door; proceeds help buy holiday presents for underprivileged children.

• Over the last 50 years, the Old Town School of Folk Music has moved from fringe venue to city stalwart. Let out a hoop and a holler for the institution’s coming of age at a birthday concert featuring performances by Jeff Tweedy, Bela Fleck, Jon Langford, and a whole pack of others at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Pkwy.; 773-728-6000), Saturday the 1st at 7 p.m. Tickets from $125 to $250 are still available.

• John Lennon called ? and the Mysterians’ 1966 tune “96 Tears” the “best rock ’n’ roll song ever.” We’re not ones to quibble with a legend, but you can judge for yourself when the reunited band plays the Winter Glam Gala at Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-489-3160), Saturday the 1st at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance; $12 at the door.

• It made our list of Ten Modern Masterpieces months before its opening; see inside the new, $55 million, Krueck & Sexton–designed Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies (610 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-322-1773) at its public début, Friday the 30th. Or, stop by at 9 p.m. Saturday the 1st for a night of comedy and irreverent storytelling sponsored by Heeb magazine, $12, or on Sunday, for a free open house with a lecture by architect Mark Sexton and a performance by Redmoon.

• Show your true colors—shades of green, we assume—for the Lincoln Park Conservatory (2391 N. Stockton Dr.; 773-883-7275) at Hothouse Holiday, a fundraiser featuring music; drinks; a silent auction of wreaths created by local artists, designers, and architects; and a live auction of artwork by Dale Chihuly and Victor Skrebneski. The party starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday the 4th. Tickets are $100.

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