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Chicago Sketch Comedy Fest among cool things to do in Chicago Jan. 4-10

"Downton Abby's" Brendan Coyle stars in "St. Nicholas" at the Goodman Theatre. | Helen Maybanks Photo

"Downton Abby's" Brendan Coyle stars in the monologue thriller "St. Nicholas" at the Goodman Theatre. | Helen Maybanks Photo

From ‘Downton’ to Goodman
Olivier Award-winning actor Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates in “Downton Abbey”) stars in the U.S. premiere of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s psychological thriller “St. Nicholas.” In the monologue play, Coyle portrays a jaded Dublin theater critic who, after following a young actress he is smitten with to London, makes a bargain with a group of vampires. Simon Evans directs the revival of the 1997 play, a production of London’s Donmar Warehouse. Jan. 9-27 at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $25-$60. Visit goodmantheatre.org

Oscar race
Those interested in a deep dive into the upcoming Academy Award season can start the New Year with Oscars Spotlight: Documentary Features Shortlist. The series features all 15 films on the Academy’s shortlist out of which will come the final nominees. Among the films are “Minding the Gap,” “RBG,” “Shirkers,” “On Her Shoulders” and “Charm City.” Jan. 4-22 at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport. Tickets: $11. Visit musicboxtheatre.com

Danny Pudi and Parvesh Cheena | ©ELISABETH CAREN 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Danny Pudi and Parvesh Cheena are among the lineup for the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. | ©Elisabeth Caren 2018

Plenty of laughs can be found at the 18th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, a comedic melting pot featuring an ambitious lineup of local favorites as well as national and international ensembles. Among the performers at the eight-day event are Parv and Pudi, featuring Danny Pudi (“Community”) and Parvesh Cheena, as well as The Cupid Players, Rehner and Nixon, Brick Penguin and Welcome to Anhedonia, a puppet show embracing nerd culture, and a whole lot more. Jan. 10-20 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets: $15, various festival passes $24-$225. For a complete schedule, visit chicagosketchfest.com

Filament Theatre is reprising its immersive play experience — “FORTS: Build Your Own Adventure.” | Audia Inc.

Filament Theatre is reprising its immersive play experience — “FORTS: Build Your Own Adventure.” | Audia Inc.

Child’s play
Filament Theatre brings back its immersive play experience “FORTS: Build Your Own Adventure,” conceived by artistic director Julie Ritchey. Families use everyday materials (cardboard boxes, sheets, clotheslines) accented by theatrical design elements (sound and lights) to create one-of-a-kind adventures. Jan. 5-March 10 at Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee. Tickets: $18 parent/child pair ticket; $8 additional ticket. Visit filamenttheatre.org

Celebrate Chicago outsiders
Continuing through Feb. 10, the exhibit “Chicago Calling: Art Against the Flow” explores Chicago’s history of recognizing the work of self-taught artists. Curated by Kenneth C. Burkhart, an independent curator, and Lisa Stone, curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition tells this story through the works of 10 Chicago artists: Henry Darger, William Dawson, Lee Godie, Mr. Imagination, Aldo Piacenza, Pauline Simon, Drossos Skyllas, Dr. Charles Smith, Wesley Willis and Joseph Yoakum. Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, 756 N. Milwaukee. Admission is $5. Visit art.org

Story time
Stories of another form come to the Steppenwolf Theatre stage in “80 Minutes Around the World,” which features storytellers who share their tales of immigration. The show’s creator and host Nestor Gomez, who is a native of Guatemala, is a veteran of The Moth storytelling events where he has won numerous slams. At 8 p.m. Jan. 8-9, Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted. Tickets: $20. Visit steppenwolf.org

Sons of the Never Wrong | Provided Photo

Sons of the Never Wrong | Provided Photo

Folk fest
For more than 25 years, the Chicago trio Sons of the Never Wrong — Bruce Roper, Sue Demel and Deborah Lader — have created turbo-charged alt-folk by combining folk, jazz, pop and rock. Rounding out the package is the trio’s oddball humor and storytelling. At a show to welcome 2019, they are joined by musicians John Abbey (guitar) and John Erickson (keyboards), plus the great folk singer-songwriter Michael Smith opens the show. At 7 p.m. Jan. 6, City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph. Tickets: $15-$22. Visit citywinery.com/chicago

Double the laughs
Called “sharp, smart, insightful and hilarious,” The Lucas Bros (identical twins Keith and Kenny Lucas) are two of the freshest voices on the comedy scene. The 33-year-old nerds have degrees in philosophy and dropped out of law school to pursue stand-up full time. They created the animated Fox series Lucas Bros. Moving Co. and were featured on another Fox series “The Grinder” and Maria Bamford’s Netflix series “Lady Dynamite” as well as their own comedy special “The Lucas Bros: On Drugs.” They offer their latest material Jan. 4-6 at The Second City’s UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North. Tickets: $20. Visit secondcity.com

Mary Houlihan is a local freelance writer.