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WINTER THEATER PREVIEW El Nino brings a storm of classics, revivals
by Mary Shen Barnidge

This article shared 5618 times since Wed Jan 20, 2016
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Classics and revivals were once staged to copy the original as closely as casting and budget permitted.

Nowadays, though, directors are unafraid to interpret texts from decades, or even centuries, ago with an eye to addressing our own society in our own age, while modern authors increasingly turn to the past in seeking to illuminate the present. This winter's theater offerings reflect this paradox.

Bona fide classics:

Richard III, Gift Theatre at the Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted St. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago joins Gift Theatre to provide state-of-the-art equipment for Michael Patrick Thornton in the role of Shakespeare's biggest badass. ( March 7-May 1; )

R+J: The Vineyard, Oracle and Red Theaters at the Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. It's hearing-impaired vs. aural-dependent on the 19th-century island colony where Romeo and Juliet meet in this remount of last fall's Shakespeare reboot. ( Jan. 22-Feb. 20; )

Othello, Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave. James Vincent Meredith stars as the misunderstood Moor under the direction of Jonathan Munby, on loan from the United Kingdom. ( Feb. 18-April 10; . )

The Hairy Ape, Oracle Theater, 3809 N. Broadway. A mere six actors play all the characters in Eugene O'Neill's expressionistic look at proletariat angst in the early 20th-century industrial United States. ( Jan. 23-March 12; )

Blood Wedding, Lookingglass Theatre at the Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. Stalker ex-boyfriends and runaway brides sizzle in Federico Garcia Lorca's duende-riddled tale of Andalusian passion. ( March 12-April 24; )

London Wall, Griffin Theatre at the Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Better known for authoring the prototype for the musical Cabaret, John Van Druten also chronicled the wartime adventures of less flamboyant damsels. ( Playing through Feb. 14; . )

The Duchess of Malfi, Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland Ave. John Webster's lurid Jacobean shocker of loose morals and dirty deeds in the privileged classes has lost none of its guilty-pleasure appeal to modern audiences. ( Playing through Feb. 20; . )

Revivals and almost-classics:

The Glass Menagerie, The Hypocrites at the Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Hans Fleischmann's reimagining of Tennessee Williams best-known play restores its lonely hero's bittersweet memories in this remount of the peripatetic 2013 hit. ( Jan. 31-March 6; . )

A Loss of Roses, Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. The "gentleman caller" in William Inge's play may be a woman, but with her intrusion comes the promise of deliverance to a restless young man struggling to free himself from his mother's domination. ( Feb. 22-April 2; . )

The Life of Galileo, Remy Bumppo Theatre at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Expect extensive allusions to today's headlines from David Hare, translating Bertolt Brecht's allegory of rational science flouting the status quo. ( March 28-May 1; )

The Old Friends, Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. Those Texas small-town mucky-mucks are at it again in Horton Foote's unflinching portrait of feuding families. ( Feb. 2-March 26; . )

The Matchmaker, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Henry Wishcamper directs Kristine Nielson and Allan Gilmore in Thornton Wilder's comedy of lovers, both old and young. ( March 5-April 10; )

American Buffalo, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company at Angel Island, 731 W. Sheridan Rd. For its swan-song season, the 30-year-old company returns to its roots with a David Mamet play assembling the dream-team cast of Richard Cotovsky, Rudy Galvan and Stephen Walker. ( Jan. 22-March 6; . )

The Drawer Boy, Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Brian Parry and Aaron Kirby guarantee intergenerational chemistry in Michael Healey's poignant yarn of elderly bachelors confronting a contradictory past. ( Jan. 30-Feb. 28; )

New plays with period settings:

What I Learned In Paris, Congo Square at the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Pearl Cleage takes us back to 1973 and the election of Atlanta's first African-American mayor for this romantic comedy. ( Playing through Jan. 31; )

The Explorers Club, Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Rd. This farce, by "Nell Benjamin," involves a stuffy men's club in 1879 challenged by a woman seeking membership. The New York production featured unga-bunga Book-of-Mormon depictions of jungle natives—don't say you weren't warned. ( Jan. 30-April 17; . )

The Gilded Age, City Lit at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Their wives dared Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner to write this comedy of an upstart Tennessee girl in Washington, D.C., adapted for the stage by Paul Edwards. ( Playing through Feb. 21; )

Bronte, Promethean Theatre Ensemble at the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Polly Teale wrote this biodrama of the three literary rock-star sisters. ( Playing to Feb. 7; )

Jeeves at Sea, First Folio Theatre, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook. You can never have just one Bertie and Jeeves story, and Margaret Raether serves up the fourth in the company's series. ( Jan. 27-Feb. 28; )

Ageless musicals:

High Fidelity, Refuge Theatre Project, 666 W. Hubbard St. The "serious collectors" will find respect and vinyl at this replica record-shop staging of an underappreciated early work by Tom Kitt and Amanda Green. ( Jan. 31-Feb. 28; . )

Heathers, Kokandy Productions at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. There are hot, bratty, homicidal teenage girls and it's based on a movie—what's not to like? ( Feb. 28-April 24; . )

Far from Heaven, Porchlight Music Theatre at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. It's also based on a movie, but with a book by the always-intelligent Richard Greenberg. ( Feb. 12-March 13; )

Hairspray, Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora. Hairspray shows how rock 'n' roll integrated Baltimore teen TV in 1962, performed in a theater generating burgeoning regional buzz. ( Jan. 23-Feb. 21; . )

Bye Bye Birdie, Drury Lane Theatre, 110 Drury Lane in Oakbrook. This venerable squeaky-clean exercise in nostalgia celebrates the teen culture of an earlier generation. ( Playing through March 13; . )

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