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This article shared 3318 times since Wed Sep 19, 2007
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For this special expanded Critics' Picks, we asked Windy City Times theater critics Mary Shen Barnidge ( MSB ) , Scott Morgan ( SCM ) and Catey Sullivan ( CS ) to suggest six shows that are on their personal don't-miss lists for Chicago's fall theater season. Here are their choices, listed chronologically. Read their reviews in print and online at to see whether their Critics' Picks are hits or misses in their own judgments.


Photos above: Linda Reiter and David Dastmalchian in Suddenly Last Summer. Photo by Jana Giacoppa. Robert Allan Smith in The Madness of Edgar Allen Poe, A Love Story. Photo by D. Rice


The Color Purple, Cadillac Palace Theatre—Producer Oprah Winfrey will never forgive you if you miss this populist and energetically performed Broadway musical adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Okay, okay, she'll probably forgive you, but consider yourself warned that time is running out. Directed by Chicagoan Gary Griffin. Through Sept. 30; 312-902-1400; $48-$85. SCM

Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, Goodman Theatre—Sarah Ruhl's three-part epic travels from Elizabethan England to Nazi Germany to 1960s South Dakota as it delves into the lives of people cast in theatrical reenactments of the Bible. Shattered psyches reverberate through the centuries among those caught up in playing God. Through Oct. 21; 312-443-3800; $30-$70. CS

Suddenly Last Summer, Shattered Globe Theatre—Tennessee Williams' gothic story of a woman trapped in a New Orleans mental hospital and the horror that drove her there shows the playwright at his lurid finest steeped in sex, melodrama and ghastly veiled violence. Kevin Hagan directs a cast worthy of Williams, with Shattered Globe ensemble members Eileen Niccolai, Linda Reiter and Brian McCaskill. Through Oct. 27; 773-770-0333; $27-$35. CS

Merchant of Venice, Silk Road Theatre Project—Shakespeare's ( in ) famous Jew becomes a Muslim in Shishir Kurup's Bollywood-influenced re-imagining of The Merchant of Venice. Stuart Carden directs the world premiere of the politically provocative story. Choreographer Alka Nayyaar's gorgeously hypnotic dances punctuate Kurup's iambic pentameter poetry. Through Nov. 4; 888-745-5849; $28-$30. CS

Sounds So Good, Makes You Wanna Holler ( Old school vs. New School ) , Black Ensemble Theater—The reliable team of producer Jackie Taylor and musical director Jimmy Tillman bring us a world-premiere tale of fathers and sons in the music business with a score ranging from Ray Charles to Kanye West. Open run from Sept. 30; 773-769-4451; $35-$40. MSB

From Berlin to Broadway With Kurt Weill, Light Opera Works—Many people speak of 'the two Kurt Weills,' unflatteringly comparing his native German works ( The Threepenny Opera ) with his American ones ( Lady in the Dark ) . Who cares? It's all fabulous music and this revue shows why Weill was such an innovative theater composer. Sept. 30-Nov. 11; 847-869-6388; $20-$39. SCM

The Defiant Muse, Victory Gardens Theatre—A 16th-century Mexican nun swaps wordplay and swordplay with a Spanish playboy in the world premiere of Nicholas Patricca's contemplative look at the life of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Oct. 1-28; 773-871-3000; $20-$45. MSB

Passion, Chicago Shakespeare Theater—Gary Griffin and Ana Gasteyer return to Chicago from Broadway for Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's thought-provoking and artsy 1994 musical about a sickly Italian woman who relentlessly pursues a handsome soldier who loathes her. More opera than musical, Passion is Sondheim at his dark and acerbic best. Oct. 2-Nov. 11; 312-595-5600; $44-$64. SCM

The Madness of Edgar Allen Poe, A Love Story, First Folio Shakespeare Festival—Alternately spooky and heart-breaking, the life and literature of Poe come to life in David Rice's intelligent drama as the audiences moves from room to room through the deliciously creepy ( and reportedly haunted ) Peabody Estate Mansion. Larry Neumann is all haunted eyes and doomed genius in the title role. Oct. 3-28; 630-986-8067; $16 ( previews ) -$26. CS

The Sparrow, The House Theatre of Chicago at Apollo Theater—This bittersweet story of super-heroine teenage angst sold out for two runs and swept the Jefferson Citations last spring—don't you think it's time you saw it? A tale of theatrical fancy, 1950's-style sci-fi and compassion. Oct. 3-Dec. 31 ( at least ) ; 773-935-6100; $34.50-$49.50. MSB

The Night of the Iguana, Raven Theatre—Tennessee Williams' last major Broadway smash is quite a downer. But oh, what wonderfully poetical wallowing is to be found by a defrocked priest and a lonely artist stuck in the Mexican tropics during World War II. Raven generally does Williams to a fare-thee-well. Oct. 9-Dec. 8; 773-338-2177; $15-$25. SCM

The Island of Dr. Moreau, Lifeline Theatre—Genetic engineering makes for tragedy in H.G. Wells' prescient and much-copied 1896 fable of science gone amuck. It's Wells at his science-fiction and social best, and this world premiere adaptation should be right up Lifeline's alley. Oct. 22-Dec. 2; 773-761-4477; $25. MSB

Cabaret, Theo Ubique Theatre—Tap into the decadence of Weimar Republic Germany just as it was trampled by the forces of fascism in Kander and Ebb's classic musical based upon gay author Christopher Isherwood. The fact that the show is performed in the No Exit Café should make it even more intimate and thrilling. Oct. 26-Dec. 16; 773-370-0235; $20-$25. SCM

Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, Hubris Productions, Center on Halsted—The wedding guests hail from Knoxville's finest families, but the bridesmaids shun the party action for some candid chat in Alan Ball's wittily incisive comedy that also makes a fashion statement, as the title suggests. Nov. 1-Dec. 8; 773-398-3273; $20. MSB

Things We Said Today, Profiles Theatre Ensemble—If ever a Chicago troupe were born to stage Neil LaBute it's Profiles. Both playwright and theater company are known for brazen, unswerving vivisections of the darker sides of the human psyche. With this series of LaBute shorts, Profiles continues it's disquieting and enthralling season dedicated to the Barrington playwright. Nov. 16-Dec. 16; 773-549-1815; $15 ( previews ) ; $25-$30. CS

The Turn of the Screw, Writers Theatre ( Books on Vernon ) —Just in time for the holidays, here is Henry James' Victorian thriller of good and evil, possibly-twisted nannies and childhood corruption. Call it the dark side of Mary Poppins. And a cheery fa-la-la to YOU, too. Nov. 28-March 30, 2008; 847-242-6000; $40-$58. MSB

Hunchback, Redmoon Theatre—The grotesquely disfigured hero, the beautiful gypsy woman, and the stunning bells of Notre Dame leap to gorgeous life in Redmoon's remount of its acclaimed adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel. Expect Redmoon's signature wonders as the tale of Quasimodo unfurls in a visually stunning pageant of puppets and masks. Nov. 29-Jan. 6, 2008; 312-850-8440; $15-$35. CS

Doctor Atomic, Lyric Opera of Chicago—Anyone interested in classical music, modern opera and science shouldn't miss the Midwest premiere of John Adams and Peter Sellars' 2005 opera about nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer in the build-up to the 1945 detonation of the atomic bomb. Dec. 14-Jan. 29 ( in repertory ) ; 312-332-2244; $31-$187. SCM

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