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James Joyce's
Photo courtesy of Court Theatre.

The Nutcracker gets credit for pirouetting us into the dance-loving adults we are today, and we're never too old to let Ebenezer Scrooge remind us that giving is better than receiving.

But this year we're taking in productions that showcase the naughty and nice sides of Chicago's brilliant small-theater scene.

At the edgy Profiles Theatre in Uptown, Will Kern's black comedy Hellcab (about the characters who hop in and out of a taxi on Christmas Eve) gets the 20th-anniversary-production treatment with a whirlwind cast of 34 Chicago actors in each performance. Drug addicts, criminals and fighting couples--you never know who will catch a ride. Through December 23; tickets $35 to $40.

Court Theatre at the University of Chicago revives the eccentric classic James Joyce's The Dead, a look at a family who gathers for the Feast of the Epiphany in 1904 Dublin. Since the actors play their own instrumental accompaniment, it's a production ideal for music lovers. Through December 9; tickets $45 to $65.

Have a holiday chuckle at West Town's the Building Stage, which skewers Scrooge with Charles Dickens Begrudgingly Performs ?A Christmas Carol.? Again. As the world celebrates Dickens's 200th birthday, the writer desperately entertains his audience with anything other than yet another reading of the holiday classic. November 29 through December 24; tickets $25.

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