We all want to improve our lives, but some folks face some pretty big hurdles. This month, local theaters present stories of ambition and roadblocks along the way.

Raisin: Jan. 21–Feb. 6

It isn’t easy to take one of the greatest plays of the 20th century and turn it into a musical. The work in question is A Raisin in the Sun, the ultimate story of painful upward mobility by Lorraine Hansberry that made its Broadway debut in 1959. Raisin, a nearly forgotten musical version of A Raisin in the Sun, first staged in 1973, receives new life with Kuntu Repertory Theatre.

Raisin is the story of the Youngers, a family of African-Americans in Chicago struggling to improve their lot in life despite suspicious neighbors and backstabbing friends. Rediscover the show by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan, which won a Tony Award for “Best Musical.” (Kuntu Repertory Theatre, University of Pittsburgh, Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Jan. 21-Feb. 6: Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m. $10-$20. Tickets: 412/624-7298,

Rent: Jan. 28–Feb. 7

Rent isn’t so much a musical as a cultural phenomenon. Fans of Rent will watch this show over and over, sing the songs at karaoke bars and proudly wear the T-shirt. If only Jonathan Larson had survived to see his Pulitzer Prize winner take over the world.

Pittsburgh Musical Theater revives this modern classic about young artists and musicians struggling in New York City. Widely beloved as a rock musical, Rent is loosely based on the opera La Bohème. (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown. Jan. 28-Feb. 7: Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. $12-$41. Tickets: 412/456-6666,

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Jan. 21–Feb. 21

On its surface, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play about a bunch of clueless Greeks wandering in the forest. But like most of Shakespeare’s comedies, the plot of Dream isn’t all that important. What is important is that Puck plays pranks; Nick Bottom transforms into a goat, and King Oberon and Queen Titania get a good chuckle out of the foolishness of mortals. Pittsburgh Public Theater revives this Shakespeare favorite. (O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., downtown. Jan. 21-Feb. 21: Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. $35-$55; guests 26 years old and under, $15.50. Tickets: 412/316-1600,

The Clockmaker: Jan. 23–Feb. 14

Heinrich Mann has a problem: He wants to solve a murder mystery, but he’s not sure how. In fact, it’s hard to say who Heinrich even is exactly. And as this tinkerer of clocks begins to fall in love with Frieda, a random stranger who has come in from the rain, their odd stories begin to merge, linking like the teeth of tiny gears.

City Theatre continues its tradition of verbal acrobatics with the U.S. premiere of Canadian Stephen Massicotte’s existential thriller, The Clockmaker. (City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side. Jan. 23-Feb. 14: Tues., 7 p.m.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5:30 and 9 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. $23-$48. Tickets: 412/431-2489, Citytheatrecompany.Org)

Room Service: Jan. 21–31

Suppose you want to produce a Broadway show but you have no money. You’re lodged in a hotel room, and you have so little cash that the owner wants to evict you. You’re sharing this room with 19 out-of-work actors, and they’re ordering heaping platters of food from room service. Which will break first—your budget or your sanity?

If you’re hungry for laughs, see Room Service. The talented students of Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Co. serve up this goofy screwball comedy by Allen Boretz and John Murray. (Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. Jan. 21-31: Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. $12-$20. Tickets: 412/621-4445,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment