Putting the Spring into a jam-packed Chicago theater season
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A few questions for Chicago theatergoers: Why do you go to the theater in the first place? Are you in search of a fresh look at social and political issues, a flight of fancy with something new and experimental, or a few hours of sheer escapism? Do you prefer plays or musicals? Do you favor intimate storefronts or larger stages?
As anyone familiar with Chicago theater will tell you, each and every preference can be accommodated in this city. But how to choose? Here is an annotated list of shows (arranged chronologically from March through May) that should put the Spring in your theater-going:
“The Source” (Route 66 Theatre, March 2 – April 2 at The Den Theatre): In this world premiere psychological drama by Gabriel McKinley, two journalists, on the hunt for the biggest story of their careers, are summoned to travel across the world to meet with The Source — an unidentified leaker of hacked documents and information on the U.S. government. Along the way they begin to examine their motives, their country and themselves. www.route66theatre.org.
“10 out of 12” (March 3 – April 23 at Theater Wit): Anne Washburn (of “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play” fame), probes “the maddening art of the theater” as she takes audiences on a trip to the backstage world of a technical rehearsal for an all-too-rapidly approaching opening night. As they don private headsets they will hear backstage chatter (and some recognizable voices) along with a dozen human stories. www.theaterwit.org
“The Wiz” (Kokandy Productions, March 5 – April 16 at Theater Wit): Kokandy launches its fifth anniversary season with a revival of this Tony Award-winning musical that puts an urbanized African-American twist on the L. Frank Baum classic. www.kokandyproductions.com
“Spamilton” (begins March 9 at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre): It was inevitable — a musical spoof of Lin Manuel Miranda’s megahit, “Hamilton.” It’s the work of “Forbidden Broadway” satirist Gerard Alessandrini and features an all-Chicago cast poking fun at Miranda, Stephen Sondheim, the stars of the Broadway production, and more. www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.
“The Most Happy Fella” (March 10 – May 7 at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre): This semi-operatic Frank Loesser musical dating from 1956 is revived far less frequently than his “Guys and Dolls,” but it comes with a gorgeous score of 40 songs and a classic story of mistaken identity. www.theo-u.com.
“truth and reconciliation” (Sideshow Theatre at Victory Gardens Theater, March 12 – April 16): Debbie Tucker Green’s play unspools in 60 minutes and involves 30 years of history and the devastating conflicts in five countries (South Africa, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Bosnia and Zimbabwe). Featuring a cast of 22 actors it asks: Can reconciliation be found when the reluctant truth is finally spoken, and how do victims and perpetrators alike struggle for meaning in the aftermath of horrific crimes? www.victorygardens.org
“The Hard Problem” (March 9 – April 9 at Court Theatre): In this Chicago premiere of Tom Stoppard’s newest play we meet Hilary, a young psychologist working at a prestigious Institute for Brain Science where she deals with regrets and faces a troubling issue in her research. Stoppard asks: Where does our biology end and our personhood begin? If there is nothing but matter, what is consciousness? Will the computer someday answer all questions psychology can ask? www.CourtTheatre.org
“In To America” (Griffin Theatre Company at The Den Theatre, March 18 – April 23): This exceedingly timely world premiere by Bill Massolia takes a 400-year journey through the American immigrant experience from Jamestown to the present day. With a cast of 13, it features more than 60 personal immigrant narratives representing more than 30 countries and spins the stories of ordinary people who left their homelands in the hopes of creating a new life. www.GriffinTheatre.com
“Born Yesterday” (Remy Bumppo Theatre at Greenhouse Theater Center, March 22 – April 30): Garson Kanin’s beguiling 1946 comedy seems made for this moment as it spins the story of Harry Brock, a rich, corrupt junk dealer who brings his uneducated showgirl mistress Billie Dawn with him to Washington, D.C., and hires a journalist to tutor her and make her more presentable. Soon she begins to understand a whole lot more about both Harry and the democratic process. www.remybumppo.org
“Destiny of Desire” (March 11-April 16 at the Goodman Theatre): Karen Zacarias celebrates the worldwide cultural phenomenon of the Latin American telenovela in this dark comedy that begins on a stormy night in a Mexican hospital, where two baby girls are born — one sickly, and from a rich family, and the other strong, but from an impoverished family. The rich trophy wife swaps the two girls, changing their destinies for ever, and when their paths cross year later … and well, stay tuned. www.goodmantheatre.org
“By the Water” (March 16-April 23 Northlight Theatre): Sharyn Rothstein’s play is set in 2012, after Hurricane Sandy has ravaged the lifelong home of Marty and Mary Murphy. The couple’s beloved Staten Island community is in danger of disappearing forever; Marty wages a campaign to save his neighborhood and home until the couple’s sons arrive to help their parents dig out. www.northlight.org
“Beyond Caring” (March 22-May 7 at Lookingglass Theatre): This work by Alexander Zeldin looks at those on the margins of society who work for low wages and in harsh conditions, with no safety net, insurance or guarantee of continued employment. Acclaimed in its London production, it is being re-imagined specifically for Chicago as it sheds light on America’s shadow economy and the intersection of race and class. www.lookingglasstheatre.org
“Linda Vista” (March 30-May 21at Steppenwolf Theatre): In this world premiere by Tracy Letts, we meet Wheeler, a 50-year-old “modern misanthrope” whose marriage is over, whose job is mundane, and who senses the best years of his life might be behind him. A move from the cot in his ex-wife’s garage to his own apartment opens up new possibilities for love and sex that are complicated, painful and hilarious. www.steppenwolf.org
“For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” (Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, April 6 – May 20): Sarah Ruhl, the acclaimed Evanston-bred writer, considers the passage of time in this play in which five siblings move from their father’s hospital bed to a kitchen table wake where they engage in political arguments, and talk about life, death and the allure of never growing up. The playwright’s mother, the wonderful actress Kathleen Ruhl, is in the cast. www.shatteredglobe.org
“Force Continuum” (Eclipse Theatre at the Athenaeum Theatre, April 13 – May 21): The company’s 2017 season is devoted to the work of playwright Kia Corthron and begins with this story of an African-American police officer haunted by his cop father’s violent death, who struggles with the contradictions of his race and profession while confronting the black community he is bound to protect. www.eclipsetheatre.com
“La Havana Madrid” (Teatro Vista at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre, April 14-May 21): Sandra Delgado’s new play steps back in time to 1960s Chicago and La Havana Madrid, the long-gone Caribbean nightclub that drew throngs of newly arrived Latinos to the city’s north side and became their cultural hub. Inspired by real life stories, the show will feature music of the decade, with legendary Colombian-American musician Roberto “Carpacho” Marin and his band playing live at every show. www.steppenwolf.org.
“Shakespeare in Love” (April 15 – June 11 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater): Adapted from the 1998 Oscar-winning film penned by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, this romantic comedy imagines the young Shakespeare struggling to write his new tragic love story, “Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate’s Daughter.” Desperate for a muse, he finds one in Viola, a vivacious beauty who disguises herself as a man to audition for the stage where no women are permitted to perform. www.chicagoshakes.com
“She Loves Me” (April 26 – June 18 at Marriott Theatre): This musical comedy gem, with a score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick is set in a 1930’s European perfume shop where clerks Amalia and Georg, who have a contentious relationship, both respond to a “lonely hearts advertisement” in the newspaper. Little do they know the love letters exchanged with their anonymous pen pals happen to be with each other. www.marriotttheatre.com
“Relativity” (May 11-June 18, Northlight Theatre, May 11 – June 18): Mike Nussbaum plays Albert Einstein. Absolutely nothing more needs to be said. www.northlight.org