From meme to stage
A 2011 internet meme showing women laughing and eating salads inspired playwright Sheila Callaghan's "Women Laughing Alone With Salad," a satirical, feminist comedy about friendship, sex, men, envy, diets, pharmaceuticals and salad. Theater Wit presents the Chicago-area premiere under director Devon de Mayo. Previews at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11. Opens March 19 at 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. $12-$70. Note: Tickets for women will be discounted to reflect the 79 percent wage gap between men and women in Illinois. (773) 975-8150 or theaterwit.org.
Four actors play dozens of characters in BrightSide Theatre's revival of the farcical whodunit "The 39 Steps." Adapted by Patrick Barlow from John Buchan's 1915 novel and Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film, this murder-mystery centers around the adventures of a bored, lonely British bachelor who finds himself embroiled in an international murder mystery. Magdalene Spanuello directs this suspense thriller sendup. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11. Runs through March 25 at Meiley-Swallow Hall, North Central College, 31 S. Ellsworth St., Naperville. $25, $30. (630) 447-8497 or brightsidetheatre.com.
Lyric Opera of Chicago and New York City Opera veteran Philip Torre stars as the titular vengeful barber in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's revival of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." Jacquelyne Jones plays his mercenary partner in crime Mrs. Lovett in the production directed by Fred Anzevino with music direction by Jeremy Ramey. Previews at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, and 7 p.m. Sunday, March 11. Opens Monday, March 12, at No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago. $20-$44. (800) 595-4849 or theo-u.com.
'Beauty Queen' reigns
Kate Fry plays 40-something Maureen Folan opposite Wendy Robie as Maureen's manipulative mother Mag in Northlight Theatre's revival of "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," the first in playwright and Academy Award nominee Martin McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy. Artistic director BJ Jones helms the family drama by McDonagh -- who wrote and directed the film "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" -- about a contentious mother-daughter relationship threatened by the daughter's burgeoning romance. "I love (McDonagh's) ability to shock for shock's sake and I relate to his quirky characters built on a landscape of loneliness and isolation," said Jones in a prepared statement. Previews at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 16-17, at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. $30-$81. (847) 673-6300 or northlight.org.
Other theater events
• The Factory Theater's 25th season continues with the premiere of "The Next Big Thing" by company member and managing director Carrie J. Sullivan. Set in 1997, it's about 19-year-old Beth Peterson who leaves her small town to pursue her rock 'n' roll dreams. Previews begin Friday, March 9, at 1623 W. Howard St., Chicago. The show opens March 16. See thefactorytheater.com.
• Fast-talking Tupperware lady Dixie Longate (the drag alter-ego of creator and star Kris Andersson) brings her adults-only, one-woman show "Dixie's Tupperware Party" to the Grand Victoria Casino, 250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 9-10. (847) 531-7749 or gvctickets.com.
• Red Tape Theatre hosts its fundraiser Masquerade from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, March 9, at the company's new home The Ready, 4546 N. Western Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, and include food, beverages, a silent auction and performances. Proceeds help fund productions, which the company presents for free. See redtapetheatre.org.
• Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls directs Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" in which contaminated water at the community baths divides two brothers: a doctor who wants to close the baths in the interest of public health and his brother, the mayor, who believes doing so would ruin the town and his political career. Eleanor Marx-Aveling adapted the play, which begins previews Saturday, March 10, at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. The show opens March 19. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org.
• Previews begin Saturday, March 10, for New American Folk Theatre's production of "Hot Pink, or Ready to Blow," a 1980s-inspired comedy by Johnny Drago. It's about three teenage virgins -- set to be sacrificed by their town of New Pompei -- who figure a way out of their predicament. Previews begin Saturday, March 10, at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. The show, featuring Lake Zurich native Elise Marie Davis and St. Charles native Will Kazda, opens Monday, March 12. (773) 697-3830 or newamericanfolktheatre.org.
• Chicago Children's Theatre transforms its home at 100 S. Racine Ave., Chicago, for its next world premiere titled "An Epic Tale of Scale" by Henry Wishcamper, Jo Cattell and composer Gabriel Ruiz. Performances begin Saturday, March 10, for the immersive show, which takes kids and their families on a journey from inside the human body to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. (872) 222-9555 or chicagochildrenstheatre.org.
• Chicago Fringe Opera presents the world premiere of "The Great God Pan," a chamber opera by Chicago composer Ross Crean inspired by an 1890 horror novella by Welsh author Arthur Machen. It's about brain surgery that goes awry and leads to various erotic and supernatural events. CFO music director Catherine O'Shaughnessy conducts the production, which runs Saturday, March 10, to Sunday, March 18, at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago. (773) 278-1500 or chicagofringeopera.com.
• Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, is the setting for writer/producer/performer Neil Tobin's production "Neil Tobin, Necromancer: Near Death Experience." The adults-only, interactive, solo show examines life and death and combines theater, magic and dark comedy. It runs Saturday and Sunday, March 10-11, as well as April 14-15 and May 5-6. See neardeathx.com.
• In conjunction with its production of "Boy" -- Anna Ziegler's drama about a male infant seriously injured during a medical procedure who's raised as a girl -- TimeLine Theatre offers a Gender 101 class examining what it means to be intersex, transgender or cisgender at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 10, at 615 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago. TimeLine associate artist Josephine Kearns lead the class, which also includes a panel discussion with non-gender-conforming guests. (773) 281-8463 or timelinetheatre.com.
• British West End actor and cabaret artist Tim McArthur makes his Chicago debut at the Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. The Stephen Sondheim aficionado performs Tim McArthur Sings Sondheim's Divas at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 11. He recalls the trajectory of his career in his show "Mountains -- A Musical" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13. See pridefilmsandplays.com.
• Representatives from the 2018 Chicago Fringe Festival will choose participants during a drawing from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at Weston's Coffee & Tap Co. at 4872 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. A total of 24 acts or shows will be selected for the festival, which takes place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood.
• Barrel of Monkeys begin previews for a musical version of its "That's Weird, Grandma" series consisting of skits based on stories penned by Chicago Public School students. "That's Weird, Grandma: Stories That Groove" begins previews Monday, March 12, at the Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago. The show, directed by Eunice Woods, opens March 19. (773) 506-7140 or barrelofmonkeys.org.
• "Pretty Woman: The Musical" begins its pre-Broadway run Tuesday, March 13, at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. Based on the 1990 film directed by Garry Marshall about the romance between a prostitute and a capitalist, the musical adaptation includes a score by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, a book by Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton and direction by Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell. Samantha Barks ("Les Miserables") stars as Vivian opposite Tony Award winner Steve Kazee as Edward. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.
• Previews begin Thursday, March 15, for Court Theatre's production of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," adapted by Todd Kreidler from William Rose's Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1967 film. It's about an affluent, Caucasian couple in 1960s San Francisco whose daughter returns from vacation with her African-American fiance. Steppenwolf Theatre's Tim Hopper and Mary Beth Fisher play Matt and Christina Drayton, Bryce Gangel plays their daughter Joanna and Michael Aaron Pogue plays her husband-to-be in director Marti Lyons' production. The show opens March 24 at 5535 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago. (773) 753-4472 or courttheatre.org.
• Stage Left Theatre asks playwrights to submit their worst, 10-minute scripts for DrekFest 2018. The submission deadline is March 16. Winning entries will be showcased during a performance on April 3 at ComedySportz Chicago, 929 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. Organizers are seeking funny scripts from good writers who have penned intentionally bad plays. See stagelefttheatre.com. Email submissions to email@example.com.
• Performances continue at The Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, for "Prime Day: An Amazonian Musical." The story is about an unlikely duo that battles Amazon's Alexa, who threatens the residents of a small Ohio town. It runs at 8 p.m. Sundays through April 8. (773) 697-9693 or theannoyance.com.
• Bradley Halverson and Jeremiah Alsop have joined the cast of Pride Films and Plays' Chicago-area premiere of "Yank! a WWII Love Story," a musical about a young man who joins the army during World War II and falls in love with a fellow soldier. Director David Zak's production runs through March 18 at 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. See pridefilmsandplays.com.
• McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage was among Chicago-area arts organizations -- including Goodman and Steppenwolf theaters, The Joffrey Ballet and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- to receive an Illinois Arts Council Partner in Excellence grant. The $42,200 will help McAninch fund art exhibits, classical music performances, free concerts and films and programs for local school groups.
• Stage 773 named Jill Valentine, a 14-year veteran of the venue, as the new executive director. Longtime Stage 773 employee Jack Short, who has worked in Chicago-area theater for 20 years, has been named managing director.
• Porchlight Music Theatre announced its 24th main stage season begins Oct. 12 with a revival of "Gypsy" starring multi-Joseph Jefferson Award-winner E. Faye Butler. That's followed by a production of the Tony Award-winning musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" (Jan. 25-March 10, 2019). Matt Crowle stars as an heir to a family fortune who schemes to get his inheritance by bumping off all the relatives who stand in his way. The main stage season concludes with "A Chorus Line" (April 10-May 26, 2019), about dancers auditioning for a new musical. It's directed and choreographed by Brenda Didier, of Lincolnshire. Porchlight Revisits, showcasing staged concerts of rarely revived musicals, includes: "1776" on Nov. 14 and 15; "Can-Can," about the Paris cafe owner who introduced the famous dance to audiences, on March 6 and 7, 2019, and "Minnie's Boys," a bio-musical about the Marx Brothers, on May 22 and 23, 2019. Performances take place at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Subscription packages go on sale Friday, March 9. Single tickets go on sale June 10. They're available at (773) 777-9884 or porchlightmusictheatre.org.