2011 FALL THEATER GUIDE

New theaters. Renovated playhouses. Hot dramas. Nervous new artistic directors. Stephen Sondheim and his “Follies.” A celebration of Stephen Schwartz, a dissection of Mark Rothko, and a look at the tragedy that befell the Amish of Pennsylvania. “The Kid Thing” by Chicago Dramatists and About Face. “The Real Thing” in Glencoe. All kinds of things at Theater Wit. With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II, the fall is busting out all over.

NEW SPACES

Three new or newly renovated Chicago theaters are set to open in the coming weeks. The all-new Black Ensemble Theatre on Chicago's North Side opens its doors with "The Jackie Wilson Story" (Nov. 18 to Jan. 8 at 4450 N. Clark St.; 773-769-4451 or blackensembletheater.org) — the fruition of a long-held dream from this most inclusive and joyous of Chicago theater companies.

The Second City will add to its comedic arsenal with Up, a space designed for stand-up and other kinds of comedy theater and slated to host a new, tourist-oriented show about the history of Chicago (secondcity.com).

And Stage 773 — a venerable Lakeview rental venue formerly known as Theatre Building Chicago — will reopen following a massive renovation, creating four high-end theaters of varying sizes where there used to be a scruffy three. No wonder the Artistic Home, which is staging Eugene O'Neill's "A Touch of the Poet" (Oct. 2 to Nov. 6 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.; $28-$32, 773-327-5252 or theartistichome.org), wants to move in.

There's nothing new about the historic Paramount Theatre in Aurora. But for a generation or more, the Paramount has just presented touring musicals, versus its own productions. That all changes; the Paramount is premiering its own production of "My Fair Lady," as directed by Jim Corti (Sept. 14 to Oct. 2 at 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora; $34.90-$46.90, 630-896-6666 or paramountarts.com). This is a bold step in a tough economy. But audiences in the Fox Valley seem to be responding: The theater claims more than 10,000 subscribers.

NEW FACES

From an audience member's perspective, the people doing theater are more important than the space in which it is being done. There, too, the Chicago theater is seeing an uncommon amount of change. New artistic directors are everywhere.

Chay Yew joins Victory Gardens Theater, although longtime associate director Sandy Shinner is taking the reins for "In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)" (Sept. 9 to Oct. 9 at the Biograph; $15-$50, 773-871-3000 or victorygardens.org) — the much-anticipated Chicago premiere of the wry comedy by Sarah Ruhl.

Timothy Douglas at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company is putting his stamp on O'Neill's "Mourning Becomes Electra"  (Sept. 21 to Oct. 30 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.; $35-$55, 773-404-7336 or remybumppo.org).

Michael Weber at Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago has adopted the slogan "American musicals. Chicago Style." Porchlight is opening the Stephen Sondheim revue "Putting It Together"  on Tuesday (through Oct. 16 at Theater Wit; $38, 773-975-8150 or theaterwit.org).

HEAVY HITTERS AND LIGHTER FARE

Over the last couple of seasons, a trip to the Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre has frequently meant taking a risk on a new play — and that's a good thing. But this fall, these two big theaters are staging surer bets:

Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park"  (Sept. 8 to Nov. 6 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St.; $20-$75, 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org) is a play that many discriminating Chicagoans are dying to see. The winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama (full disclosure: I was on that jury) is a meditation on that great Chicago drama, "A Raisin in the Sun."

John Logan's "Red" (Sept. 17 to Oct. 23 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.; $25-$89, 312-443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org) I first saw and greatly admired in London. Logan, who lived for years in Evanston, penned a thrilling and crystal-clear script about the great expressionistic painter Mark Rothko and the moral dilemmas faced by any artist when confronted with someone waving a massive check in his face. In the Goodman's production, Robert Falls, who knows Logan, his work and the temptation of big checks, will take on the play.

So Broadway producers looking for new material will instead have to find their way to Skokie, where Northlight Theatre will stage "Snapshots" (Sept. 16 to Oct. 23 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie; northlight.org). This is a revue drawing from the music of that phenomenally successful pop composer Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked, "Godspell," "Pippin"). It's not entirely a new show, but it has been radically retooled, rewritten and reproduced for its Northlight debut.

National attention will also likely land at American Theater Company, where PJ Paparelli will direct "The Amish Project" (Sept. 23 to Oct. 23 at American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron St.; atcweb.org), Jennifer Dickey's piece about that harrowing day in 2006 when the Amish community of Pennsylvania realized that they could not keep out the violent modern world.

And Lookingglass Theatre, housed in one of the only downtown buildings to survive the Chicago Fire, takes on that inferno with "The Great Fire," a look at how a shining city emerged from embers that would have deterred less hardy souls. (Sept. 21 to Nov. 20 in the Water Tower Water Works; $20-$68, 312-337-0665 or lookingglasstheatre.org)

For lighter fare, you might try the off-Broadway comedy "Love, Loss and What I Wore"  (Sept. 14 to Oct. 23 at the Broadway Playhouse; broadwayinchicago.com), Nora and Delia Ephron's look at life's joys and travails through our clothes choices.

And it's all laughs at "The Doyle and Debbie Show"  (coming Oct. 11 to the Royal George Theatre Center; theroyal georgetheatre.com), a well-regarded show from Nashville that aims to poke some affectionate fun at country music. More than enough for one season.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 50 SHOWS FOR FALL

    50 SHOWS FOR FALL

    As we bid farewell to the Summer of Swelter, it's a grand time for pulling up the appointment app on your smart phone (or pulling out the day planner, if you're a traditionalist) and setting aside some play dates with the hottest shows in town.

  • 'Great team effort' by joggers saves man in Lake Michigan

    'Great team effort' by joggers saves man in Lake Michigan

    During an early morning jog along Lake Michigan with his wife and children Tuesday, John Corba spotted a man struggling in the water nearly 30 yards from the shore.

  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The cliché that colors every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...

Comments
Loading