As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, the theater scene offers its own bountiful fall harvest. From heirlooms to hybrids, homegrown treats to intriguing imports, the list below highlights just a few of the toothsome possibilities on the menu.

  • Coming Sunday, Sept. 8 in the Tribune, the official Tribune Guide to 2013 Fall Theater, including Chris Jones' 10 picks for the season.

BIG DEALS AND RELIABLE FAVORITES

"The Mountaintop": Katori Hall's Olivier Award-winning play, which starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett in its Broadway run, imagines a meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a hotel maid on the eve of his assassination. Ron OJ Parson directs David Alan Anderson and Lisa Beasley in the local premiere. Court Theatre; through Oct. 6

"To Master the Art": William Brown and Doug Frew's portrait of Julia and Paul Child, which first appeared at TimeLine Theatre in 2010, gets another outing through the Chicago Commercial Collective, which is dedicated to providing commercial remounts of shows originating in nonprofit houses. Karen Janes Woditsch and Craig Spidle return as the woman who brought French cooking to American kitchens and the diplomat husband who introduced her to Paris. Broadway Playhouse; Sept. 10-Oct. 20

"The Wheel": Joan Allen makes her long-awaited return to Steppenwolf (her first appearance since 1991) in Zinnie Harris' magic-realist epic about a woman in Spain who, like Grusha in Bertolt Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," must care for a young girl in an age of war and chaos. Tina Landau directs. Steppenwolf Theatre; Sept. 12-Nov. 10

"Pullman Porter Blues": For decades, the men who worked as porters on the Pullman train cars served as "the town criers of the African American community," as director Chuck Smith puts it, as well as forerunners of the civil rights movement. Cheryl L. West's play with blues music brings it home to where George Pullman's company began with this story about three generations of porters. Goodman Theatre; Sept. 14-Oct. 20

"4000 Miles": Amy Herzog, whose "Belleville" got a run with Steppenwolf this summer, penned this Pulitzer Prize finalist about a 21-year-old man seeking solace in his grandmother's West Village apartment. Kimberly Senior directs the local premiere. Northlight Theatre, Skokie; Sept. 14-Oct. 20

"Once": The winner of the 2012 Tony for best musical, inspired by John Carney's 2007 film about a Dublin street musician who finds companionship and collaboration with a young Czech woman, features the songs from the film co-written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, with a book by Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Oriental Theatre; Oct. 9-27

"The Normal Heart": Celebrated (and MacArthur "genius") director David Cromer makes a rare onstage appearance in Larry Kramer's contemporary classic about the early days of the AIDS epidemic and the activists and doctors who fought to make the world take notice of the tragedy. Nick Bowling directs. TimeLine Theatre Company; Nov. 1-Dec. 22

"Appropriate": Sibling drama fills Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' new play, in which the adult children of a dead plantation owner in Arkansas fight over their history — and what's left of their father's possessions. Gary Griffin directs the piece, which was developed through Victory Gardens' IGNITION Festival, in a co-world premiere with Actors Theatre of Louisville. Victory Gardens Theater; Nov. 8-Dec. 8

"Million Dollar Quartet": At this point, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny, and Carl (do you really require last names?) have probably cleared a million in box office several times over. Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott's jukebox musical about one magical night at Sam Phillips' Sun Records has been rocking the retro appeal since 2008. Apollo Theater; open run

"TJ & Dave": Two of the finest improv talents you'll ever see (that would be TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi) team up in this long-running long-form late-night show — and at $5, it's also one of the best deals in town. iO; open run

CLASSIC UPDATES

"King Ubu": The Plagiarists practice their fold-and-spindle techniques on Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi," whose nihilistic and scatology-obsessed title character has inspired generations of confrontational artists. James Dunn directs this ensemble-created adaptation. The Den Theatre; through Sept. 28

"The Balcony": Jean Genet's dark absurdist allegory about authoritarianism and role-playing unfolds in a brothel where clients engage in fantasies about being high-ranking officials — while a real revolution rages outside. Max Truax directs. Trap Door Theatre; Sept. 5-Oct. 12

"The Killer Angels": Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel comes to the stage in Karen Tarjan's adaptation, directed by Matt Miller. Lifeline Theatre; Sept. 6-Oct. 27

"Cyrano de Bergerac": Director Penny Metropulos and actor Harry Groener , who collaborated on Chicago Shakespeare's acclaimed "The Madness of King George" in 2011, return for Edmond Rostand's tale (adapted and translated by Anthony Burgess) of a man with an outsize nose and a noble heart. Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Sept. 24-Nov. 10

"The North China Lover": Heidi Stillman adapts and directs this world premiere based on Marguerite Duras' autobiographical novel about an affair between a 14-year-old schoolgirl and a Chinese aristocrat in 1930s Indochina. Deanna Dunagan plays the older Duras, Rae Gray (most recently seen in "Slowgirl" at Steppenwolf) the younger version, and Tim Chiou is the title character. Lookingglass Theatre; Sept. 25-Nov. 10