The House Theatre of Chicago understands how to engage a live audience. Setting up an elaborate multipurpose two-story set, avoiding unnecessary props, providing a live soundtrack and speeding up the action with well-organized montages are only a few of the ways that their latest offering—the gangster drama “Thieves Like Us”—highlights their dedication to keeping theater relevant and exciting. The only downside here is the somewhat generic feel of the story itself. Adapted from the 1937 Edward Anderson novel of the same name, Damon Kiely’s script follows a group of escaped convicts robbing banks throughout Oklahoma. The central character, Bowie Bowers (John Byrnes), falls for the sweet-but-tough Keechie (Paige Hoffman) and the duo attempt to escape the life of crime that they’ve become a part of. Though the story flows nicely, it can’t help but start to feel too familiar before it’s over. But even the slightly predictable ending is offset by the explosively creative staging of the finale. (Zach Freeman)
The House Theatre at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 West Division, (773)251-2195, through October 30.