Self-described pulp about a woman who finds—and spends a long, surreal night with—the man who may or may not have killed her sister, with a large dose of metatheater thrown in for good measure. “Ruby Wilder” is visually appealing and well-paced, but ultimately contrived—and not usually in a good way. The show has everything except great writing: well-conceived art direction, a smart infusion of choreography and just enough irony from the actors to keep them from falling into farce as they embody barflies, ballerina heroin addicts and charming serial killers. However, from drawn-out fights between a narrator and the characters to clichés about heroines refusing to follow the plot, the writing feels stale and almost desperate in the way it attempts to play with stage conventions. Humor does erupt in places, but it has more to do with the actors than the writing. At best, it’s a lively, if not fresh, take on pulp. (Monica Westin)
At the Chemically Imbalanced Theater, 1420 W. Irving Park, (800)838-3006. Fri-Sat 8pm/Sun 5pm. $20. Through Aug 10.