A potential superhero awaits the unleashing of his powers. Tracy Letts mourns over Moscow. A Chicago disaster is revisited. A young man misses his appointment with Goldman Sachs. Oedipus hits the streets of Los Angeles. Hats fly on the Goodman Theatre stage. And a bunch of wacky but super-smart Belgians ponder the meaning of the universe in 90 minutes flat. There must be something there of interest, right?
In no particular order, from the heart of the Loop to the woods of Wisconsin, here are our 10 most-anticipated shows for summering Chicagoans.
'A History of Everything'
One of the relatively small number of international works on offer this summer, "A History of Everything" is the work of a highly regarded Belgian company called Ontroerend Goed. Collectively devised and simply staged, the piece is, in essence, a celebration of the human miracle, and a 90-minute pondering of our place in the universe, taking us from the Big Bang to the present state of our species and planet. Ontroerend Goed is known for its irreverence and sense of humor, despite the gravity of the most significant story of all. May 25 to June 3 Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave.; $35-$45 at 312-595-5600 and chicagoshakes.com
'I Am Going to Change the World'
In what seems like a timely tale in a moment of fraught IPOs, a new University of Chicago graduate has his heart set on making millions and an interview all set at Goldman Sachs. But then, that fateful morning, his alarm does not go off. In Andrew Hinderaker's play, a young man finds his life not going as planned. It's a fascinating premise from one of Chicago's most promising young writers, who is partnering again with director Jonathan Berry. Through July 1 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave.; $20-$32 at 312-633-0630 and chicagodramatists.org
This adult, cabaret-style, burlesque-fused circus is highly regarded among aficionados of the more intimate circuses. Many of the acts (which include the likes of Le Gateau Chocolat, The English Gents, Cabaret Decadanse and Miss Behave) were part of a previous show called La Clique, which did very well in Europe. "La Soiree" arrives in Chicago in July to make its United States debut, as the centerpiece of the first season at the new Riverfront Theater (a tent venue on the Chicago River and a producing partner with the Tribune Company, which publishes this newspaper). July 18 to Aug. 5 at the Riverfront Theater, 650 W. Chicago Ave.; $50-$110 at riverfronttheater.com
'Oedipus El Rey'
Over at the Victory Gardens Theater at the Biograph, they're telling everyone they are not doing "your mama's 'Oedipus'" for their summer show. Rather, "Oedipus El Ray" is a new and radical version of the classic Sophoclean tragedy of the perils of really knowingewho you are, as penned by Luis Alfaro and set in South Central Los Angeles. Alfaro is in town and working on the show, which tracks a young Chicano ex-con in the explosive realm of the barrio. Chay Yew, the new artistic director at the Gardens and a man with a new mission, takes the directorial helm. June 29 to July 29 by Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.; $15-$50 at 773-871-3000 and victorygardens.org
'Eastland: A New Musical'
Tourists wandering along Wacker Drive can often be seen puzzling over a plaque commemorating the victims of Chicago's own version of the Titanic disaster, wherein an employee picnic for the Western Electric Company on July 24, 1915 turned into one of this city's darkest days as the S.S. Eastland rolled into the river and claimed more than 800 mostly working-class lives. The Lookingglass Theatre is turning this terrible event into an original musical, written by Andrew White with music by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, that aims to give voice to the extraordinary heroes and victims of that dark Chicago summer's day. June 6 to July 29 by Lookingglass Theatre in Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave.; $24-$68 at 312-337-0665 and lookingglasstheatre.org
With the Tony Award-winning Phylicia Rashad on hand to direct, Paul Oakley Stovall's new play will be much followed across the country as it makes its world premiere in a rented space at the Goodman Theatre. This independent, for-profit production is produced by Paul Boskind, Ruth Hendel and Stephen Hendel, and it tells the story of the secrets of a fractured Hyde Park family in what the producers are billing as a combination of "Modern Family" and "All in the Family." June 2 to Aug. 5 at the Goodman's Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.; $20–$54 at 312-443-3800 and goodmantheatre.org
A celebration of the spectacular hats worn by African-American women, especially at church, director Regina Taylor's gospel-infused piece follows a bereft young woman who comes to know the power of community. The show, a big hit at regional theaters across the country a decade ago and now revived at Taylor's home theater, is based on a book by Craig Marberry. Taylor added a light dramatic book, plenty of spirituals and gospel songs and an upbeat, celebratory tone that celebrates pride and staying power. The Goodman is hoping tickets will fly out the door. June 30 to Aug. 5 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.; $25-$88 at 312-443-3800 and goodmantheatre.org
You wouldn't think of Tracy Letts, the let-it-roar author of "August: Osage County," as a natural match for Anton Chekhov, the Russian master of the repressed, nuanced lament. But Letts is a formidably catholic talent, and his new adaptation of "Three Sisters" might just give old Anton some new spark, especially since his pal Anna D. Shapiro is in the director's seat, wrangling a cast that includes Alana Arenas, Ora Jones and the inimitable Yasen Peyankov. June 28 to Aug. 26 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St.; $20-$78 at 312-335-1650 and steppenwolf.org
'Hero: A New Musical'
A rare example of a new, homegrown musical at the high-profile Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, "Hero" is the work of book writer Aaron Thielen and composer/lyricist Michael Mahler, both local artists. It tells the story of a 28-year-old aspiring comic book artist from Milwaukee whose life is stalled and who still lives at home with his dad. One day, his ex-girlfriend, a woman who knows how to unleash superpowers in others, comes back to town. Erich Bergen plays the title role in a production directed by David H. Bell. June 20 to Aug. 19 at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire; $45-$48 at 847-634-0200 and marriotttheatre.com
American Players Theatre
Prefer to get out of town during the warmer months? The bucolic and traditionalist American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis., has William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"; the classic comedy "The Royal Family"; J.M. Barrie's "The Admirable Crichton"; "Richard III"; and "Troilus and Cressida" (directed by William Brown) playing in its main outdoor theater, where the woods are always part of the show. James Bohnen's production of "Heroes," David Hare's "Skylight," Vern Thiessen's "Shakespeare's Will" and James DeVita's "In Acting Shakespeare" are playing in its newer indoor space, ideal for when rains fall in this most verdant of Midwestern locales. The season runs through Oct. 20 at American Players Theatre, 5950 Golf Course Road, Spring Green, Wis.; contact 608-588-2361 and americanplayers.org
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