12:57 PM CDT, August 30, 2012
Chicago is, above all, known as a tryout town, an experimental city, a boundary crosser. It's world-premiere central, a Midwestern citadel of new and daring works of live performance.
Any theater lover in these parts should have a taste for adventure. But what are your best bets?
We've combed the fall performance schedules with an eye to offering some suggestions for the progressive theatergoer: the arts fan who likes to be surprised and challenged. On this list, you'll find solo tours de force, world premieres, Midwest premieres, Chicago premieres, experiments and all the risk-taking any audience member could want.
'The Iron Stag King': For fans of the House Theatre, "The Valentine Trilogy" was a series of shows staged between 2004 and 2006 that featured (as I said at the time) "cattle, illusions, cowboys, romance, a Mormon avenger, a revenge plot and a rock band sitting behind a fake rock" and a seminal moment for this creative theater company. Now, with the House ensemble members at very different points in their lives, artistic director Nathan Allen and collaborator Chris Mathews have an all-new trilogy ready to unleash. Not only does "The Iron Stag King (Part One)" feature some of House's best-loved ensemble players, including Cliff Chamberlain and Joey Steakley, it marks the theater's return to mythic original storytelling — in this case set in the kind of fantastical world beloved by fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and gamers everywhere. Friday through Oct. 21 by House Theatre of Chicago at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St.; $25 at 773-769-3832 and thehousetheatre.com
'Equivocation': First produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2009 and seen in New York the year after, this play by Bill Cain ("Stand-Up Tragedy") ponders the difficulties faced by one William Shakespeare, commissioned by the king to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot and struggling to reconcile artistic truth with the needs of his sponsors. Sept. 14 to Oct. 14 by Victory Gardens at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.; $20-$50 at 773-871-3000 and victorygardens.org
'Freshly Fallen Snow': At this venerable home of new works for the Chicago stage, the Evanston-based writer M.E.H. Lewis is back with a new play about a doctor who figures out a way to "edit" the memories of the traumatized, but who runs into painful matters of her own. Sept. 20 to Oct. 28 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave.; $32 at 312-633-0630 and chicagodramatists.org
'One Name Only': Black Ensemble Theatre's fall world premiere is a celebration of those African-American music stars for whom a surname would be merely superfluous: Aretha, Gladys, Patti, Chaka, Whitney. Such one-name wonders cranked out a formidable clutch of hit records, and Black Ensemble plans on belting out as many of them as two hours can hold. Sept. 28 to Nov. at 11 Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark St.; $55-$65 at 773-769-4451 and blackensembletheater.org
'Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men': In this co-production with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it was first seen this summer, Dael Orlandersmith ("Stoop Stories") offers up a new solo show about five real New York men, all of whom tell their stories of struggle and their attempts to transcend domestic abuse. Chay Yew directs. Sept. 29 to Oct. 28 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.; $27-$45 at 312-443-3800 and goodmantheatre.org
'Making Noise Quietly': Steep Theatre specializes in staging works by playwrights from Ireland and Britain without substantial U.S. reputations. Its latest is this trilogy of short plays about ordinary people by the important but oft-overlooked British scribe Robert Holman, a writer of humanistic and empathetic inclination. Oct. 4 to Nov. 10 at Steep Theatre Company, 1115 W. Berwyn Ave.; $20-$22 at 866-811-4111 and steeptheatre.com
'Trainspotting USA': One of the most interesting fall commercial projects in Chicago, this is a so-called re-adaptation by Tom Mullen of the Irvine Welsh novel, which became a movie by Danny Boyle and a play by Harry Gibson. It's still about young heroin addicts — but instead of living in Scotland, they've been relocated to Kansas City, Mo. Oct. 13 12 to Dec. 2 by Book and Lyrics Theatricals LLC at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.; $32 at trainspottingusa.com
'The Opponent': Brett Neveu, whose new works for A Red Orchid Theatre enliven any Chicago theater season, turns his attention to the world of boxing (he usually has less specific locales). Red Orchid stalwart Guy Van Swearingen stars as the owner of a small-time gym. Oct. 18 to Dec. 23 at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St.; $15-$30 at 312-943-8722 and aredorchidtheatre.org
'Mike Daisey: American Utopias': Ever since Mike Daisey copped to some fictionalization in his one-man show about Steve Jobs, the monologuist has been a constant topic of conversation. Whatever one's opinion on that fracas, there's no questioning the theatrical chops of Daisey, who sits behind a desk, sweats into the lights, engages his audience and causes trouble. Daisey returns to Chicago (his last local gig, sponsored by the radio show "This American Life," was canceled) to present his newest piece about American civic spaces, ranging from Disney World to the Washington Mall to Burning Man, which feels like an apt description of Daisey at some points during 2012. It's presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Humanities Festival. Nov. 1-11 on the Museum of Contemporary Art Stage, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; $28 at 312-397-4010 and mcachicago.org
'Failure: A Love Story': Philip Dawkins burst onto the Chicago scene last year with the terrific drama "The Homosexuals." Between fending off new offers and attentions, he penned a play set in 1928 about three Chicago sisters, all of whom die that year. Nov. 16 to Dec. 30 in the Richard Christiansen Theater at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.; $30-$52 at 773-871-3000 and victorygardens.org