There are more than 250 theatre companies in Chicago, the city hailed by London’s The Guardian as “the theatre capital of America.” That includes some of the famous stages downtown, plus dozens more scattered throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods. And while they may be small in size, there’s nothing little about the drama they unleash.

Here’s a list of some of the best neighborhood theatres in Chicago.

Court Theatre

Court Theatre

Court Theatre is known for taking classic American works, then adapting and expanding them. You’ll find reinventions of lost masterpieces and fresh versions of old classics, with a particular emphasis on African American works. Founded in 1955, Court Theatre is the professional theatre of the revered University of Chicago. 5535 S Ellis Ave., Hyde Park

Porchlight Music Theatre

Porchlight Music Theatre

Artistic Director Michael Weber snaps up the rights to Broadway musicals after they’ve been around for a while and makes them Chicago’s own. The casts at Porchlight Music Theatre are usually anchored by a song ‘n dance vet, surrounded by an ensemble of younger, emerging talent. The result is shows that invariably knock the audience’s collective socks right off. In residence at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., River North

Black Ensemble Theater

Earth, Wind & Fire Tribute
Reasons: A Tribute to Earth Wind & Fire at Black Ensemble Theater

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Black Ensemble Theater show where the audience isn’t on its feet dancing by the curtain call. Artistic Director Jackie Taylor pens most of the theatre’s juke-box biographies of legendary (or undersung) African American composers and performers. 4450 N. Clark St., Uptown

Tip: Wear shoes you can move in. You will be dancing by the final number.

TimeLine Theatre

TimeLine‘s formidable power rests in its ensemble, a group that can shape the most obscure slices of history into storytelling that is vivid, urgent, and resonant. TimeLine has garnered awards for bringing to life everything from 16th century England to 21st century Iraq. 615 W. Wellington Ave., in the Belmont Theater District of Lakeview

Tip: Arrive early. TimeLine’s lobby displays are mini-museums where collages, video footage, and historical photos and documents provide context to the play at hand.

A Red Orchid Theatre

Guy Van Swearingen founded A Red Orchid Theatre in between fighting fires (his day job is Lieutenant with the CFD) and with longtime collaborators Michael Shannon and Kirstin Fitzgerald. Over the past two decades, the company has made an indelible mark staging works that aren’t necessarily well known, but that suck you in with the force of a riptide. 1531 N. Wells St., Old Town

Theater Wit

There’s a trio of 98-seat theatres inside Theater Wit, making the place an ever-buzzing hive of artistry. Wit shows skew toward innovative provocative, whipsmart contemporary works and Midwest premieres. The roster of shows is laid out on a massive wall menu in the lobby. 1229 W. Belmont Ave., in the Belmont Theater District of Lakeview

Tip: If you’re in town for a week or more, get a FlexPass allowing you to see 10 shows at any performance you want (or give them to friends) at a 30% ticket price discount.

The Gift Theatre

Jefferson Park’s only theatre, The Gift has been telling great stories with honesty and simplicity for over 20 years. Founded by Michael Patrick Thornton, the space is home to new works and classics delivered with ferocity, verve, and authenticity. 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., Jefferson Park

Tip: The nearby Gale Street Inn has some of the best ribs in Chicago. Have dinner there before or after the show.

Theo Ubique

A triumph of storytelling over spectacle is the hallmark of Theo Ubique. Artistic Director Fred Anzevino takes big, Broadway musicals and strips them down to their emotional essence. Expect to be part of the set, literally. The actors sing and dance around cabaret tables where the audience is seated. 721 Howard St., Evanston, IL 

Tip: Come early for dinner, served by the cast

Visit to see what exciting productions are on stage while you’re here. Plus, be sure to check Hot Tix for half-price theatre tickets to many shows in Chicago.