Three plays examining notions of identity and featuring “characters who struggle to find meaning in the absurdity of life” will be on the docket during The Gift Theatre’s just announced 2018 season.

David Rabe | Courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre

One of the play’s —Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” — might just be the granddaddy of all identity and absurdity plays, but two contemporary works also will deal with these themes. They include the Midwest debut of David Rabe’s “Cosmologies” (the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, now an ensemble member, who enjoyed immense success when The Gift staged the world premiere of  his drama, “Good for Otto” in 2016), as well as the world premiere of Illinois-bred playwright Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour’s “Hang Man.”

The season will begin with Osei-Kuffour’s play (running Feb. 9 – April 8, 2018), to be directed by Erica Weiss. Set in a backwoods Southern town, it finds a community “grappling with the murder of a black man found hanging in a tree,” according to today’s annoncement.

“Hamlet” (June 1 – July 29, 2018) will come next, to be directed by Monty Cole. And closing the season will be Rabe’s “Cosmologies” (Oct. 12–Dec. 9, 2o18), to be directed by The Gift’s artistic director, Michael Patrick Thornton. Described by Gift Theatre as “an existential absurdist comedy,” Rabe’s play is set in motion when “a young man’s negotiation for a date goes very wrong, and we are transported through kaleidoscopic worlds of possibilities, identities, and loves.”

Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour | Courtesy of The Gift Theatre

The Gift Theatre also has announced the addition of five artists to its current 37-member ensemble, including Evan Michael Lee, Chika Ike, Martel Manning, Gregory Fenner, and Hannah Toriumi.

For season subscriptions call (773) 283-7071 or visit

One final note: Actor Namir Smallwood, who gave such a memorable performance as Tom Joad in The Gift’s 2016 production of “The Grapes of Wrath,” is now winning plaudits in New York where he is starring in Dominique Morisseau’s play, “Pipeline,” at the Lincoln Center Theater. Smallwood became a member of the Steppenwolf ensemble earlier this year.