Theatre of the Absurdly Affordable

The U.N. Inspector
Photo by Brandon Dahlquist

Save the belt-tightening for that extra martini or the premium cable subscription: When it doesn’t cost a dime, culture can stay in the budget. The nationwide program Free Night of Theater hits Chicago in October, and not a moment too soon. How it works: Anyone can reserve free tickets to one of more than 45 selected plays. The only stipulations are that you pick a theatre you haven’t attended previously and you are limited to two tickets. That’s not to say you can’t team up with a friend, each book reservations to a show, and trade off taking each other out for a cheap date. New blocks of seats are released every Tuesday in October and tend to sell out quickly; check Tuesday the 7th for tickets to shows including The U.N. Inspector, a breezy adaptation of Gogol’s The Government Inspector with a Chicago slant, at Next Theatre (Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., Evanston).

Best Bets for Things to Do This Week

Also free, also fabulous: October is Chicago Artists Month, which means creativity is popping up across the city, even in neighborhoods not known for being founts of artistic inspiration. Find an event in your own backyard at, or check out one of our top picks. 1968: Art and Politics in Chicago at the DePaul University Art Museum (2350 N. Kenmore Ave.; 773-325-7506) looks back at another historic election year in Chicago, with protest posters, art, films, and more on display. The exhibition hangs through November 23rd.

All of the election season hoopla—presidential and vice-presidential alike—may have left you mulling the reasons why people choose to seek office in the first place. Take a break from the real-world campaigns and catch Theater Oobleck’s The Trojan Candidate, a deeply funny, if worrisome, peek into the psyches of presidential candidates. The show opens 8 p.m. Friday the 3rd at The Neo-Futurarium (5153 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-347-1041) and closes on election eve, November 3rd. Tickets are $12.

Or leave the politicking to the pols and opt for art for art’s sake: Angelus Novus, a physical-theatre piece inspired by Paul Klee’s 1920 painting of the same title, combines music, acrobatics, circus feats, and karaoke. If that doesn’t help blow off some election-season stress, we don’t know what will. This debut production from the new troupe National Headquarters runs through Sunday the 12th at AV-aerie (2000 W. Fulton St., Ste. 310; 312-850-9729). Tickets are $15.

After fall’s chilly arrival, this weekend’s forecasted high of 67 degrees sounds downright toasty. Make use of the (slightly) warmer weather by paddling in the Chicago River Flatwater Classic, a 7.25-mile course that kicks off at Clark Park (3400 N. Rockwell St.) 10 a.m. Sunday the 5th and concludes at Ping Tom Memorial Park (300 W. 19th St.). Kayaks and canoes are available to rent. Advance registration (by noon Saturday the 4th) runs $15 to $27 at; day-of registration is $35.

Geek Out
And now two options that illustrate why we love Chicago: There’s something here for everyone. Those with twitchy fingers can head to the Westin Chicago North Shore (601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling) for the 24th annual Pinball Expo, which runs through Sunday the 5th and includes a free play area (no coins required!). Entry is $15 per day; visit for details. And those with a nose for sticky fingers can check out the second annual Sherlock Holmes/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Symposium, a free lineup of public lectures that runs from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday the 4th at The Newberry Library (60 W. Walton St.; 312-255-3700).