"The Big Knife": Clifford Odets' poison-pen portrait of the rotten state of Hollywood opens Raven's 30th anniversary season under Michael Menendian's direction. Raven Theatre; Sept. 11-Nov. 11

"Schweyk in the Second World War": Another leftist lost in La-La Land: Bertolt Brecht's "musical survival guide for oppression and tyranny" finally gets its Chicago premiere, courtesy of Red Theater. Director Aaron Sawyer updates the piece, which Brecht wrote while in exile during the 1940s, for the post-9/11 era. Stage 773; Oct. 16-Nov. 11


"Impenetrable": Chicago writer Mia McCullough tackles the beauty myth in this play about a controversy that erupts when a spa billboard in a North Shore suburb highlights the "problem areas" on a model's body. Greg Werstler directs the world premiere for Stage Left. Theater Wit; Sept. 1-Oct. 7

"Wrens": Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, which got a new permanent home in Edgewater this spring, celebrates its 17th season with a remount of its very first production, which nabbed three Joseph Jefferson Awards. Anne McGravie's play, directed by Karen Kessler, follows members of the Women's Royal Navy Service (WRNS, or "wrens") as World War II draws to a close. Rivendell Theatre Ensemble; Sept. 6-Oct. 13

"Tusk Tusk": Rising British playwright Polly Stenham's drama about London siblings fending for themselves after their mother goes missing gets its U.S. premiere under the direction of Jennifer Green and with a cast of young newcomers. Piven Theatre Workshop; Sept. 8-Oct. 7

"The Skriker": Caryl Churchill's mind-bending dystopian fairy tale about the titular shape-shifter who wreaks havoc on the lives of two young mothers gets an outing with director Eric Hoff, who this year staged Ike Holter's acclaimed Stonewall drama "Hit the Wall" for the Inconvenience. Red Tape Theatre; Sept. 13-Oct. 20

"Freshly Fallen Snow": A doctor who pioneers a technique for erasing traumatic memories from war veterans starts uncovering the pain of her own mother, who survived the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Local playwright M.E.H. Lewis' newest kicks off the season for Chicago Dramatists under Meghan Beals McCarthy's direction. Chicago Dramatists; Sept. 20-Oct. 28

"Making Noise Quietly": More life during wartime: Director Erica Weiss, whose staging of "A Twist of Water" plays Manhattan this fall, makes her Steep debut with this triptych of plays by British playwright Robert Holman, whose work has inspired Steep favorites Simon Stephens and David Eldridge. The plays are set during World War II, the Falklands and in 1986. Steep Theatre; Oct. 4-Nov. 10

"Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom": A role-playing video game in which multiple players try to kill zombies spins away from the virtual and into real life in Jennifer Haley's comic horror story, directed by Joanie Schultz. Strawdog Theatre Company; Oct. 7-Nov. 10

"Trainspotting USA": Irvine Welsh's celebrated novel about heroin addicts in Scotland gets a stateside (Kansas City, Mo., ) makeover in this version, adapted and directed by Tom Mullen (who also co-produces) and featuring new material by Welsh. Theater Wit; Oct. 13 to Dec. 2

"In Pigeon House": Seanachai Theatre Company takes a drug-fueled trip back across the pond with the world premiere of Honor Molloy's rave vaudeville (music by Paul Loesel), directed by Plasticene vet Brian Shaw. Molloy juxtaposes the contemporary club scene in Dublin with the "fit-ups," or traveling shows that toured the Irish countryside in the early 20th century. Den Theatre; Oct. 17-Nov. 18

"Blackademics": Former Chicago-based playwright Idris Goodwin returns with this comedic drama about two female colleagues in academia whose night on the town uncovers personal and political conflicts. It opens the season for MPAACT, under the direction of Shepsu Aakhu and Marie Cisco. Greenhouse Theater Center; Oct. 12-Nov. 25

"Evanston, Which is Over There: A Tale of Men and Women in the Modern World": Beau O'Reilly, the godfather of the Chicago fringe and a co-founder of Curious Theatre Branch, unveils his latest, in which a group of misfit friends embark on adventures and misadventures in Rogers Park, including close encounters with hippies, baristas, Buddhists and a Montenegrin chorus. It premieres, suitably enough, at a Rogers Park venue. The Side Project, Nov. 9-Dec. 16

"Busted City": Paul Carr's play, set in a Chicago tavern during the election of Harold Washington, gets a site-specific staging with director Stefan Brun for Prop Thtr. Fuller's Pub; Sept. 21-Dec. 16

"Wasteland": Two POWs in Vietnam bond through a solid prison wall, despite the many political and social differences that also separate them. William Brown directs the world premiere of Susan Felder's drama. TimeLine Theatre, Oct. 12-Dec. 30


"A Class Act": Porchlight Music Theatre presents this tribute to composer/lyricist Edward Kleban, who shared the Tony Award for best score with Marvin Hamlisch for "A Chorus Line" and died at age 48 in 1987. Structured as a behind-the-scenes look at how musicals are made, the show features work by Kleban that was never performed in his lifetime. Stacey Flaster directs the Chicago premiere. Theater Wit; Sept. 1-Oct. 14

"Xanadu": We're a long way off from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," but this bubble-gum musical offers a pleasure dome of sorts. Based on the 1980 fantasy movie musical starring Olivia Newton-John, the stage version features a power-pop score by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and John Farrar and a book by Douglas Carter Beane. Most importantly, it features roller -skates — which should provide a fun challenge for director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell. Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace; Sept. 6-Oct. 28

"Grease": Yes, the stage version by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey predates the movie, but Olivia Newton-John is also indelibly linked to this ur-musical about the 1950s, which famously got its start at the old Kingston Mines Theater in Chicago. Michael Unger directs. Paramount Theatre, Aurora; Sept. 12-Oct. 7