By Kerry Reid, Special to the Tribune
11:13 AM CDT, September 1, 2011
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.
BIG DEALS AND LONG RUNS
The Tony-winning musical about race relations and rock 'n' roll makes a local stop on its national tour. Cadillac Palace Theatre; Nov. 22-Dec. 4
"Million Dollar Quartet"
Another tale of Memphis rockers – Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Carl Perkins — and Sam Phillips, the legendary producer who launched their careers, continues to pack them in for a third year. Apollo Theater; open run
Frequent Steppenwolf scribe Bruce Norris won the Pulitzer this past spring for this jaundiced look at race relations and gentrification that uses Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" as its launching pad. Amy Morton directs. Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Sept. 8-Nov. 6
"In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)"
Wilmette native Sarah Ruhl's saucy look at Victorian sexual "hysteria" was a Pulitzer finalist in 2010. Sandy Shinner directs the local premiere. Victory Gardens Biograph Theater; Sept. 9-Oct. 9
"Love, Loss, and What I Wore"
Former local Nora Dunn (one half of the Sweeney Sisters in the 1980s-era "Saturday Night Live") comes home in this showcase of stories by sisters Delia and Nora Ephron. Felicia Fields and Barbara Robertson also star. Broadway Playhouse; Sept. 14-Oct. 23
Victory Gardens ensemble member John Logan took home the Tony in 2010 for this two-person portrait of anguished abstract painter Mark Rothko and his young assistant, Ken, as the former wrestles with his muse and conscience while creating murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan. Robert Falls directs. Goodman Theatre; Sept. 17-Oct. 23
Chicago Shakespeare brings back longtime associate and Stephen Sondheim aficionado Gary Griffin for a revival of Sondheim and James Goldman's portrait of two couples reexamining their relationships against the backdrop of an aging theater marked for demolition. Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Oct. 4-Nov. 6
"My Fair Lady"
Aurora's Paramount Theatre kicks off its first subscription season under new artistic director Jim Corti with the Lerner and Loewe chestnut. Andrea Prestinario stars as Eliza Doolittle, with Nathan M. Hosner as persnickety Henry Higgins. Paramount Theatre, Aurora; Sept. 14-Oct. 2
"Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind"
The Neo-Futurists' trademark show has offered up "30 plays in 60 minutes" for 23 years, and the late-night lines around their Andersonville venue haven't diminished as new generations discover this made-in-Chicago fringe favorite. New playlets are added weekly, and if they sell out, they send out — for pizza. The Neo-Futurarium; open run
The poet/soldier with the prodigious proboscis swashes and buckles in this new take on Edmond Rostand's classic, adapted and directed for House Theatre by Matt Hawkins. Chopin Theatre Upstairs; through Oct. 16
"Alice's Adventures Under Ground"
Christopher Hampton's version of Lewis Carroll's topsy-turvy trip features songs by Richard Peaslee and uses Carroll's own correspondence with the real Alice to flesh out the fantasy. City Lit Theater; Sept. 2-Oct. 9
"The Count of Monte Cristo"
Alexandre Dumas' tale of honor and vengeance gets a makeover from adapter Christopher M. Walsh. Paul S. Holmquist directs. Lifeline Theatre; Sept. 9-Oct. 30
"Waiting for Lefty"
The times are ripe for Clifford Odets' clenched-fist ode to the rights of the working class, and American Blues Theater fills the bill with his one-act agitprop classic about a taxi strike. Kimberly Senior directs. Victory Gardens Biograph Richard Christiansen Theater; Sept. 2-Oct. 2
"Sophocles: Seven Sicknesses"
Sean Graney's adaptation of seven surviving Sophoclean texts takes place over four hours. But never fear — a catered meal midway through will provide sustenance for the Hypocrites' epic event. Chopin Theatre Downstairs; Sept. 6-Oct. 16
"Mourning Becomes Electra"
Another epic-length production inspired by Greek tragedy: Timothy Douglas opens his first season as artistic director of Remy Bumppo with Eugene O'Neill's post-Civil War version of "The Oresteia," starring Remy Bumppo stalwarts Annabel Armour, David Darlow and Nick Sandys. Greenhouse Theater Center; Sept. 21-Oct. 30
And still more Greek reimaginings, courtesy of Lisa Peterson and onetime Chicago actor Denis O'Hare. ("True Blood" fans know him as Russell Edginton.) O'Hare and Peterson's one-man version of the Trojan War stars Timothy Edward Kane under Charles Newell's direction. Court Theatre; Nov. 10-Dec. 11
"A Touch of the Poet"
And still more O'Neill – this time courtesy of the Artistic Home. Kathy Scambiatterra directs the family drama about a self-aggrandizing Irish-American patriarch at loggerheads with his headstrong daughter and his own diminished dreams. The production marks the company's new partnership with Stage 773. Stage 773; Oct. 2-Nov. 6
"The Shadow of a Gunman"
Scambiatterra's spouse and Artistic Home co-founder John Mossman directs Sean O'Casey's 1923 drama about a Dublin poet mistaken for an IRA assassin for Seanachai Theatre Company. Irish American Heritage Center; Sept. 15-Oct. 23
"Summer and Smoke"
Tennessee Williams' portrait of a southern minister's daughter grappling with her blooming sexuality kicks off the season for The Den Theatre under Ryan Martin's direction. Den Theatre; Sept. 16-Oct. 29
Storefront visionary Max Truax takes on Henrik Ibsen's rarely performed verse tragedy about a small-town priest with Old Testament ideals. Red Tape Theatre; Sept. 29-Oct. 29
SAVVY FRINGE FINDS
Chicago Fringe Festival
After its maiden voyage last year, the CFF returns with the theme of "On the Map, Under the Radar," featuring 50 performances spread over 11 days in five Pilsen venues. Participating locals include Hobo Junction and the Mammals, and Tim MacMillan of New York biked in from Brooklyn with his show, "Soul Mates Don't Die." Various venues; through Sept. 11
"My Name is Mudd"
Jackalope Theatre Company remounts Shawn Reddy's fractured re-telling of the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, first staged in 2003 as part of the Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, in which a group of misfit actors provide their own addled take on historical fact. Viaduct Theater; Sept. 9-Oct. 2
Quest Theatre Ensemble tackles the subject of romance in this original musical by Lynn Lupold, Scott Lamps, Chris Hodak, and Don Seybold, set in an international airport where arrivals and departures carry more than the usual emotional baggage. As always for Quest, performances are free. The Blue Theater; Sept. 9-Oct. 16
"Chalk and Saltwater: The Ladder Project"
To fail, or not to fail: Oilman Edgar Davis' 1926 production of "The Ladder" earned horrific reviews but still managed to run for just over two years. Using passages from related archival material, the Neo-Futurists, directed by John Pierson, examine assumptions about failure and success while incorporating the element of random chance from "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind." Neo-Futurarium; Sept. 15-Oct. 22
The New Colony goes back to school with this commercial production of Evan Linder's 2009 comedy about life in the pledging classes. Original director Andrew Hobgood remounts the show with the original cast in an actual bar. The Apartment Lounge; Sept. 16-Oct. 22
"Speaking in Tongues: The Chronicles of Babel"
Shepsu Aakhu's new documentary-style play for MPAACT, directed by Andrea J. Dymond, draws on the oral histories of a family from the now-demolished Washington Park housing project. Greenhouse Theater Center; Sept. 16-Oct. 30
Norwegian novelist Ingvar Ambjornsen's story of two young men with mental handicaps contending with life outside the institution, which was turned into a film in 2001, gets a theatrical outing with Redtwist favorites Peter Oyloe ("Equus") and Andrew Jessop ("Bug") under Steve Scott's direction. Redtwist Theatre; Sept. 24-Oct. 30
"The Spirit Play"
Strange Tree Group returns with Emily Schwartz's latest, set amid the séance parlors of 1880s Chicago. Storefront Theater; Oct. 5-Nov. 6
The Vintage Theater Collective updates Moliere's farce "School for Wives," in which a cynical man attempts to groom a young woman to be the submissive creature of his dreams. Katy Collins directs Eric Powell Holm's adaptation. Strawdog Theatre; Oct. 16-Nov. 9
"The Sound of Silence" and "Date Me"
Belgian company Salomee Speelt, in association with Shpiel Performing Identity, makes its local debut with Jean Cocteau's one-woman tale of a nightclub singer (inspired by Edith Piaf) and Salome Speelt founder Noemi Schlosser's comedy about two dateless women at a wedding reception. Theater Wit; Nov. 16-Dec. 17
"The Kid Thing"
Local writer Sarah Gubbins ventures pens a world-premiere look at lesbian relationships turned sideways by a pregnancy and a potential sperm donor, co-produced by Chicago Dramatists and About Face Theatre. Chicago Dramatists; through Oct. 16
"A Behanding in Spokane"
Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh turns his scabrous wit stateside with his first play set in America, which makes its Chicago debut under Rick Snyder's direction. Profiles Theatre; Oct. 16-Dec. 4
16th Street Theater brings back Marilyn Campbell's hit from last winter, based on the finger-snapping, society-challenging wordsmiths of the 1950s. 16th Street Theater, Berwyn; Sept. 15-Oct. 15
Based on the true story of a Lutheran clergyman who opposed Hitler — to the point of twice attempting to assassinate him — Mary Ruth Clarke's play, developed in association with director Tim Gregory, gets a world premiere at Provision. Provision Theater; Sept. 17-Oct. 30
"The Great Fire"
In commemoration of the 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, Lookingglass remounts John Musial's 1999 meditation on the disaster. Lookingglass Theatre; Sept. 21-Nov. 20
Gina Gionfriddo's acclaimed comedy of warped manners and horrific first dates makes its local bow under Damon Kiely's direction. A Red Orchid Theatre; Sept. 22-Nov. 6
"Maple and Vine"
The peripatetic Kiely also stages the Midwest premiere of Jordan Harrison's 2011 Humana Festival hit about a besieged 21st-century couple who retreat to a community of 1950s re-enactors. Next Theatre, Evanston; Oct. 27-Dec. 4
"The Ugly One"
Marius von Mayenburg's international hit that deconstructs superficial notions of beauty and identity via "the ugliest man in the world" gets a local premiere under Seth Bockley's hand with Sideshow Theatre Company. Oracle Theater; Oct. 8-Nov. 20
New York-based writer Candido Tirado, Teatro Vista's newest resident writer, updates his play about a young man pondering the murder of his best friend for a Chicago setting. The company presents Tirado's "Fish Men" at the Goodman in the spring. Chicago Dramatists; Oct. 23-Dec. 4
Immediate Theatre Company was a stalwart of the Chicago storefront scene until the early 1990s. Now original member Peter Cieply resurrects the troupe and directs the local premiere of Adam Bock's award-winning portrait of grieving siblings and the aviary they inherited from their deceased father. Red Tape Theatre; Nov. 10-Dec. 18
"Murder for Two — A Killer Musical"
Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair's two-actor musical whodunit continues its hit run. Chicago Shakespeare Theater; through Oct. 16
"Putting It Together"
The eminence grise of American musicals gets a tip of the hat in Porchlight Music Theatre's revival of this showcase of great Sondheim songs set against the backdrop of a cocktail party. Brenda Didier directs and choreographs. Theater Wit; Sept. 2-Oct. 16
"Urinetown: The Musical"
Steampunk meets satire in Kevin Bellie's staging of onetime-Chicagoans Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann's Tony-winning salute to distressed bladders and revolutionary impulses. Circle Theatre, Oak Park; Sept. 9-Oct. 23
Hip-hop theater maestro Will Power originally crafted this show in which seven contemporary DJs/griots connect the past and present through a mix of rhyme, narration, and beats. Sonita Surratt directs. ETA Creative Arts Foundation; Sept. 15-Oct. 23
Jeanine Tesori ("Caroline, or Change") composed the score and Brian Crawley wrote the book and lyrics for this bittersweet story of a physically scarred young woman whose chance encounter with a black soldier on a bus during the civil rights movement changes her life. Elizabeth Margolius stages the piece for Bailiwick Chicago. Mercury Theatre; Sept. 16-Oct. 16
Stephen Schwartz moves away from the fantasia of "Wicked" to explore the mystery of middle-aged romance, as explicated in David Stern's book. Ken Sawyer directs. Northlight Theatre, Skokie; Sept. 16-Oct. 23
And more Schwartz in the Middle Ages: the composer's 1972 picaresque about the son of Charlemagne and his adventures in love and war, as told by a troupe of traveling actors, opens BoHo's season. Theater Wit; Oct. 15-Nov. 20
"Starting Here, Starting Now"
Richard Maltby and David Shire's 1976 revue about the joys and pitfalls of urban romance gets an intimate urban staging by Fred Anzevino for Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. No Exit Café; Sept. 23-Nov. 6
"The Sound of Music"
Rising director Rachel Rockwell tackles Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved tale of the original singing nun and her wealthy but forlorn charges. Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook, Oakbrook Terrace; Oct. 20-Jan. 8
Margaret Wise Brown's iconic children's story comes to life in Chad Henry's musical, directed for Chicago Children's Theatre by David Kersnar of Lookingglass and featuring musical arrangements by longtime Redmoon associate Mark Messing and choreography by House Theatre's Tommy Rapley. Victory Gardens Biograph Theater; Oct. 27-Dec. 23
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