Truth be told, the 2016-2017 theater season is not shaping up as glory time for classics, whether antique ( Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, the Greeks ) or modern ( Brecht, O'Neill, Coward, Miller ).
Dead playwrights can breathe easy! The largest single category of new productions of old shows is musicals, with even Mamma Mia! reappearing for the 3,000th time, albeit in a new production ( vs. the forever-touring edition ), at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora ( now playing through Oct. 30 ). Pickings are slim, but I'll take what I can get. Several of these shows already are running and are listed first by closing date.
The Heidi ChroniclesThe Cuckoo's Theater Project at Prop Theatre, through Oct. 8. Don't know much about The Cuckoo's Theater Project, but The Heidi Chronicles won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for author Wendy Wasserstein. It recounts 20 years in the life of Heidi Holland, from high school through successful career, and crucial decisions Heidi makes about sex, romance and motherhood all colored by the liberal and Feminist politics of the 1960s to 1980s. We'll see how this ground-breaking play holds up. Visit TheCuckoosTheaterProject.com .
How to Succeed in Business Without Really TryingMarriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, through Oct. 16. This great 1961 musical with book by Abe Burrows and music/lyrics by Frank Loesser ( Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella' ) won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for its satire of American Big Business. The biz world isn't as sexist as it used to be ( the show's women are secretaries not execs ) but business ethics haven't changed much. Marriott always does a fine job. Visit MarriottTheatre.com .
Wonderful TownGoodman Theatre, through Oct. 16. A rare revival of Leonard Bernstein's second Broadway musical, which won the 1953 Tony Award for Best Musical. It's Bernstein's most traditional song-and-dance show, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient Mary Zimmerman directs this story of two sisters from Ohio who seek fame and fortune in 1930s New York, living among artsy Greenwich Village types. It's based on My Sister Eileen, which preceded it as a book, play and movie. Visit GoodmanTheatre.org .
True WestShattered Globe Theatre, through Oct. 22. Sam Shepherd's 1980 play was not produced first in Chicago, but the Steppenwolf Theatre Company staging of it a few years later transferred to off-Broadway and made stars of John Malkovich and Gary Sinise. Brothers Austin and Lee are night and daythe former a screenwriter, the latter a thief and scammer. What possibly could convince them to join forces? Well, how about a juicy Hollywood deal? Along the way, they trash their mother's house. Visit SGTheatre.org .
Julius CaesarWriters Theatre, Glencoe, through Oct. 23. Power politics, plotting, posturing, bad-mouthing, betrayal and back-stabbing. No, it's not an episode of Big Brother but a 105-minute version of Shakespeare's familiar tragedy, conceived by artistic director Michael Halberstam and veteran actor Scott Parkinson. The sooth-sayer has a deal for you: special sale on summer sooths with two pair of chance. Visit WritersTheatre.org .
The following shows have not yet opened. They are listed by opening date.
Misalliance, ShawChicago ( sic ), Ruth Page Center, Sept. 17-Oct. 10. Marriage and dalliance among the British moneyed classes nearly goes awryno, it does go awryin George Bernard Shaw's 1909 comedy of ideas in which women pursue men pursue women, old money pursues new and an airplane crashes in the garden, bringing a handsome pilot and a female daredevil acrobat who provide the spice everyone thinks he/she has been missing. Visit ShawChicago.org .
Tug of War, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, Sept. 24-Oct. 9. This is Part II of artistic director Barbara Gaines' distillation of Shakespeare's Henry V, all three parts of Henry VI and Richard III.
The titular tug-of-war is over English-claimed territories in France, which spilled English and French blood and treasure over several hundred years, with several English civil wars along the way. Gaines keeps all the big battle scenes off-stage in order to focus on personal drama and kingly ( and queenly ) ego that fed so much of history. In Part II, the warrior queen Margaret takes charge in place of her ill-equipped hubby, Henry VI, who was dethroned and rethroned again ( 1422-1461, 1470-71 ). FYI: It's a six-hour show with intermissions and a meal break. Visit: chicagoshakes.org .
Pirandello's Henry IVRemy Bumppo, The Greenhouse, Oct. 5-Nov. 13. Not England's Henry IV, but 11th Century German Emperor Henry IV, who happens to be the character a modern Italian nobleman portrays at a costume party. When he takes a header from his horse, he thinks he IS Henry IV. Because he's rich he gets his way ... for 20 years, to the annoyance of family and courtiers. What to do? Nobel Laureate Luigi Pirandello ( 1867-1936 ) sorta set the ground rules for the Absurdist movement, which followed as he explored the nature of reality and perception. This is a great choice for Remy Bumppo. Visit RemyBumppo.org .
Betrayal, Raven Theatre, Oct. 26-Dec. 17. This landmark 1978 play by the great English writer Harold Pinter ( 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature ) is about a man, his wife and his best buddy and the nine-year affair which engulfs all three. Much of it is autobiographical, and Pinter cleverly tells the tale backward. Betrayal is more realistic and far less absurdist that Pinter's earliest plays. Seems like a good match for Raven and director Lauren Shouse, who will stage the work in Raven's intimate 57-seat West Stage. Visit RavenTheatre.com .
FYI: Pinter's very first play, The Room, is being staged by A Red Orchid Theatre, Sept. 29-Nov. 13, directed by Dado. Dating from the late 1950s, The Room is a comedy of menace in the absurdist style. Visit ARedOrchidTheatre.org .
Electra, Court Theatre, Nov. 10-Dec. 11. What would you do if your mother and her lover killed your father when he returned after years away at war? In the case of Electra and her brother Orestes, the answer is ( 1 ) bide your time and then ( 2 ) murder Mummy and her bf. One of the greatest and most profound tragedies, Electra was written by Sophocles ( 496-406 BCE ) late in his life, and will be seen at Court in a world-premiere translation by emeritus artistic director Nicholas Rudall. Sandra Marquez should be a knockout as Clytemnestra, the mom who wants it all and thinks she can control her kids. Visit CourtTheatre.org .