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  WINDY CITY TIMES

FALL THEATER PREVIEW All together In one room: Indoor theater returns
Expanded preview
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2021-09-01

This article shared 704 times since Wed Sep 1, 2021
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Two years ago, September would have been greeted by a cluster of opening nights—sometimes as many as three overlapping the same evening—to signal the entrance of the bright-lights-and-glamor CHICAGO THEATER SEASON. This year is 2021, however, and just as its Fourth-of-July marked the beginning, not the middle, of summer (Memorial Day? Do you remember celebrating one of those?), the buzz-and-bustle we now recall so fondly won't hit its stride until after the autumnal equinox.

Don't settle back on the couch just yet, though! Labor Day 2021 still welcomes opportunities to shake the dust off your fancy duds and re-acclimate to the dazzle of indoor shows delivering the kind of experience you can't get from staring at a screen.

Check with individual theaters for safety policies, bring a mask—oh, and be kind to your fellow audience members (especially the tourists). It's been a long haul for everybody.

OPENING and RE-OPENING:

—Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play: Theater Wit, Sept. 8-Oct. 3: The photos may hint at a raucous romp for fans of The Simpsons, but Anne Washburn's multi-layered narrative dwells in an apocalypse bereft of grid media or print libraries, with only ancient oral tradition providing a source for its myths. Details: TheaterWit. org

—Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992: Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre at Noyes Cultural Art Center in Evanston, Sept. 11-Sept. 26: His name was Rodney King, his brutal beating was the first ever to be broadcast on national television, and Anna Deavere Smith's solo show, starring Jazzma Pryor, recounts its aftermath in the words of those who witnessed it. Details: FJtheatre.com

—Thirteen Days: City Lit Theatre at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, Sept. 10-Oct. 24: On October 16, 1962, the United States held its breath while men in Washington—played by an all-female cast in this production—decided whether what historians now call the Cuban Missile Crisis would usher in nuclear holocaust. Details: CityLit.org

—Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Volume 5—SEX: Hell in a Handbag Productions, Sept. 19-Oct. 23: David Cerda's irrepressible drag-dowagers explore the "naughty" side of geriatric erotica amid the site-specific surroundings of the Chicago Leather Museum and Archives. Details: Handbag productions.org

—This Wide Night: Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, Oct. 11-Nov. 13:Chloe Moss isn't the first playwright to recount the struggle of former prison cellmates to rekindle their friendship "on the outside"—but in this Blackburn award-winning play, making its Chicago debut, the ex-convicts are both women. Details: SGtheatre.org

—4000 Days: PrideArts Broadway, Oct. 4-31: Young gay Michael awakens from a coma with no memory of the past 11 years, only to be confronted with conflicting accounts of his previous relationships in Peter Quilter's Rip Van Winkle comedy. Details: PrideArts.org

—As You Like It: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Oct. 15-Nov. 21: If you can still recite the lyrics to the entire Beatles songbook, you'll want to yeah-yeah-yeah along (softly, now) with the flower-power score of Shakespeare's romantic woodland romp. Details: ChicagoShakes.com

—Fannie, the Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer: Goodman Theatre, Oct. 15-Nov. 14: That's "music" in the title, and that's superstar vocalist E. Faye Butler portraying the formidable Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer in this biodrama now performing indoors after touring the parks this summer. Details: GoodmanTheatre.org

—The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice: Court Theatre, Oct. 16-Nov. 21: Shakespeare gave his villain the bigger portion of text, but Kelvin Roston, Jr. has no intention of letting us forget the innocent hero so shabbily mistreated by a hostile society. Details: CourtTheatre.org

—Hamlet: Invictus Theatre Company at the Frontier, Oct. 25-Nov. 21: The close quarters of this storefront auditorium make for an intimate view of Shakespeare's classic family drama of royal intrigue, so don't forget to bring your mask. Details: InvictusTheatreCo.com

—The Last Pair of Earlies: Raven Theatre, Nov. 1-Dec. 12: A gifted tradesman and his wife join the Great Migration in 1921, seeking refuge from the squalor of post-war Mississippi and a fresh start in Chicago, but emancipation for Black citizens is not something achieved simply by a government declaration. Details: RavenTheatre.com

—Bug: Steppenwolf Theatre, Nov. 11-Dec. 12: The scenery for Tracy Letts' creepy thriller warning of covert government experiments on civilians remained onstage when the theater went dark in 2020, patiently awaiting to finish the scheduled engagement suddenly interrupted by a mysterious virus (fictional, of course). Details: Steppenwolf.org

CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC

—Kinky Boots: Paramount Theatre in Aurora, running through Oct. 17: Aurora's oasis-for-the-arts landed the rights to one of the first regional productions of Harvey Fierstein and Cindi Lauper's tale of two country-bred cobblers whose footwear (in the words of its rousing chorus) change their world by changing minds. Details: ParamountAurora.com

—The Things I Could Never Tell Steven: PrideArts Broadway, running through Sept. 19: Steven's gone missing, leaving his mother, father, wife and ex-boyfriend to wonder about the motives behind his flight in this musical symposium by Australian composer Jye Bryant making its North American premiere. Details: PrideArts.org

—The Infinite Energy of Ada Lovelace/Petticoats and Sliderules: Third Eye Theatre Ensemble at Edge Theatre, Sept. 17-Oct. 3. The company that brought us the love story of early-American settlers Patience and Sarah now presents a double-bill of operas celebrating two barrier-breaking women of science. Details: ThirdEyeTe.com

—Songs For A New World: Theo Ubique at the Howard Street Theater (technically in Evanston, but cross the street and you're in Chicago), Sept. 27-Oct. 24: Courage, hope and I-can-do-this determination are built into the very premise of Jason Robert Brown's anthology of anthems for pilgrims embarking on uncertain futures. Details: Theo-U.com

—American Mariachi: Goodman Theatre, Sept. 27-Oct. 24: The Mexican Mariachi is said to have power capable of pulling the aged and infirm back from the fog of dementia—but only if five young women with no previous instrumental training defy centuries-old cultural tradition to make the hitherto male-excusive musical form their own. Arriba! Details: GoodmanTheatre.org

—Songs For Nobodies: Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Oct. 1-Oct. 31: Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas, Patsy Kline and Billie Holiday stood tall in the spotlight, but they didn't stand alone—Bethany Thomas portrays both the stars and their support staff in Joanna Murray-Smith's solo revue. Details: Northlight.org

—Pump Boys and Dinettes: Porchlight Music Theatre, Nov. 4-Dec. 12: You don't have to be a Dixie-born honker to sing this rollicking revue of twangy down-home country originals when Black Ensemble regulars Daryl Brooks, Robert Reddrick and Rueben Echoles are at the helm. Details: PorchlightMusicTheatre.org

—Sister Act: Mercury Theater, Nov. 11-Jan. 9: Alexis J. Roston and Hollis Resnick lead the cast of this Hollywood fable of cloistered nuns and pop stars on-the-lam uniting in accord to take down a pack of mobsters. Glory Hallelujah! Details: MercuryTheaterChicago.com

JUST FOR STREAMERS

—Sense and Sensibility: Lifeline Theatre, Sept. 3-Oct. 31: Last spring's cross-gender Sherlock Holmes audioseries proved so successful that the Lifeline scribes have done it again, this time serving up the adventures of Jane Austen's penniless young singles in teatime-sized episodes you can enjoy at home. Details: LifelineTheatre.com

—The Music Cure, Misalliance Repertory Theatre, running through Oct. 31. After officially disbanding, the ShawChicago alumni rallied with this audioplay adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's satirical sketch involving politicians, financial scandals, quack doctors, nervous patients and a pianist with supernatural powers. Details: MisallianceRepertory.org

—Three Short Plays by Tracy Letts: Steppenwolf Theatre, Sept. 29-Oct. 3: The bill features three mini-plays (32 minutes total) by Pulitzer-prizewinning playwright Tracy Letts, but be sure to view the one titled "The Old Country" featuring a chat in a diner between two elderly puppets voiced by—are you ready?—William Peterson and Mike Nussbaum. Details: Steppenwolf.org

—Kingdom: Broken Nose Theatre at the Den, Oct. 4-24: The two African-American men have shared a life together for 50 years, but legal marriage still comes with consequences demanding serious consideration in this audiodrama adaptation of Michael Allen Harris' award-winning 2018 play. Details: BrokenNoseTheatre.com

FAMILIAR FRIENDS and DOWNTOWN ATTRACTIONS:

—Recipe For Disaster: Windy City Playhouse at Petterino's, Oct. 6-Dec. 26: When the disruptive porker lending the Contumacious Pig restaurant its name is hiding in the kitchen, when the chef is indisposed on the night that the Influencers are expected, and you're sitting in the middle of it all, it can only mean that top-drawer foodslinger Rick Bayless has teamed up with Chicago's immersive-theater Windy City Playhouse for a site-specific mash-up of food and farce. Details: WindyCityPlayhouse.com

—Frozen: Broadway In Chicago at the Cadillac Palace, Nov. 19-Jan. 23: The heroic adventures of Disney's royal sisters in a frigid Scandinavian fantasyland take the stage, ensuring that pedestrians navigating Randolph and Wells Street during the holidays will find themselves surrounded by swarms of pre-teen girls caroling "Let It Go" at the top of their lungs. Details: BroadwayInChicago.com

—Late Nite Catechism: Greenhouse Theatre Center, Sept. 10-Jan. 2022: It's been 28 years since it first opened, but our intrepid teaching sister (currently played by Jenna Steege) is still guiding her flock—and a few occasional stray lambs—through the often-ironic mysteries of the Catholic faith. Details: Nuns4Fun.com

—Theatre ZinZanni: Cambria Hotel, open run. When architects discovered a former Masonic Temple hidden in the upper floors of the 1926-vintage Oriental Theatre, it seemed only natural for a vaudeville/cabaret show encompassing acrobats, vocalists, old-school comedy and drinks to take up residence. Details: Zinzanni.com/chicago

—Blue Man Group: Briar Street Theatre, open run: In the quarter-century since the silent blue-faced stuntmen moved into Chicago's Lakeview district, generations of curious seekers have ventured into this leafy lane off Halsted Street in search of the all-ages spectacle inspired by our increasingly enigmatic modern world. Details: Ticketmaster.com

—The Magic Parlour: Palmer House Hilton, open run: Sequestered in a chamber deep in the gilded-age Palmer House, magic can sometimes grow scary, but Dennis Watkins always assures his audiences of their safety, even when the illusions involve nails, knives or Sharpies. Details: TheMagicParlourChicago.com

—Out of the House Party: Second City e.t.c. at Pipers Alley, running through Jan. 2: The training exercises that spawned an empire are back with new material gleaned from recent events. Also at Pipers Alley: She The People at the UP Comedy Club, running to Dec. 31. Details: SecondCity.com

For all you Fa-la-la fans, Goodman Theatre has announced its annual A Christmas Carol, the House Theater of Chicago is preparing a new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen and Northlight has promised the premiere of a play-with-music titled Mr. Dickens' Hat. More dispatches are arriving daily—and who knows? Maybe Santa will finally deliver a cure for the grinchy gloom of recent years.


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