17 theater shows to see this fall

These 17 plays and musicals are the fall theater shows to see

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Smokefall; The Magic Flute; King Lear; Sweeney Todd; Great Expectations

Smokefall; The Magic Flute; King Lear; Sweeney Todd; Great Expectations

The beginning of the fall theater season continues to creep backward into August, with terrific new shows already up and running, including the Hypocrites' epic All Our Tragic and Sideshow Theatre Company's Stupid Fucking Bird. But as we enter the post–Labor Day season, it's time to look ahead to what's new and necessary in the next few months—including highly anticipated performances like Larry Yando's turn in King Lear and tantalizing new works such as Nambi E. Kelley's adaptation of Native Son. Here's what we're most intrigued by on Chicago stages this fall.


RECOMMENDED: Your guide to fall in Chicago


King Lear

  • Price band: 3/4

I hear my colleagues in some other cities complain about a wearying surfeit of Lears, but Chicago hasn't had one since Robert Falls's Goodman production in 2006. And the promise of seeing Larry Yando essay the title role in Chicago Shakespeare Theater artistic director Barbara Gaines's new production of Shakespeare's tragedy is a tantalizing one.

  1. Chicago Shakespeare Theater 800 E Grand Ave, at Navy Pier
  2. Until Sun Nov 9
Buy tickets

The Downpour

  • Price band: 2/4

Route 66 Theatre Company presents a new family drama by Caitlin Parrish (A Twist of Water), centering on two sisters (played by Caroline Neff and Brenda Barrie) who grew up supporting each other through their mother's postpartum psychosis, and the fear that erupts when one of the siblings announces her own pregnancy. Erica Weiss directs.

  1. Greenhouse Theater Center 2257 N Lincoln Ave, between Webster and Belden Aves
  2. Until Sun Oct 12
Buy tickets

Native Son

  • Price band: 2/4

Court Theatre and American Blues Theater co-produce Nambi E. Kelley's new stage adaptation of Richard Wright's 1940 novel about poverty and oppression on the South Side of Chicago in the ’30s. After the black Bigger Thomas (one of the most iconic fictional Chicagoans) goes to work for a white family, fear, mistrust and rigid racism lead to tragedy.

  1. Court Theatre 5535 S Ellis Ave, between 55th and 56th Sts
  2. Until Sun Oct 12
Buy tickets

Rest

  • Price band: 2/4

One of the few remaining residents of an Idaho retirement home facing imminent closure disappears amid a brutal blizzard. The opener of Victory Gardens's 40th season reunites ensemble playwright Samuel D. Hunter and director Joanie Schultz, the team behind last year's The Whale, which we named the best play of 2013. The cast for Rest includes McKenzie Chinn, Amanda Drinkall, Matt Farabee, Steve Key, William Norris, Ernest Perry Jr. and Mary Ann Thebus.

  1. Victory Gardens Biograph Theater 2433 N Lincoln Ave, between Fullerton Ave and Montana St
  2. Until Sun Oct 12
Buy tickets

Season on the Line

  • Price band: 1/4

Writer Shawn Pfautch pulls out his finest slings and arrows for the House Theatre's new backstage meta-adaptation, in which the fictional Bad Settlement Theatre Company struggles to mount the perfect stage adaptation of Moby-Dick—which becomes an Ahab-like artistic director's own white whale. Jess McLeod directs.

  1. Chopin Theatre 1543 W Division St, at Milwaukee Ave
  2. Until Sun Oct 26
Buy tickets

The World of Extreme Happiness

  • Price band: 2/4

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's bleak comedy follows a Chinese "factory girl" (Jennifer Lim, Chinglish) as she navigates the big city and an exploitative economic system. Eric Ting directs the Goodman's world-premiere co-production with Manhattan Theatre Club.

  1. Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St, between Randolph and Lake Sts
  2. Until Sun Oct 12
More info

The Night Alive

  • Price band: 3/4

Henry Wishcamper directs the Chicago premiere of Conor McPherson's latest, about a down-on-his-luck Dublin guy who finds a flicker of hope in a young woman he rescues on the street. The cast includes Steppenwolf ensemble members Francis Guinan and Tim Hopper along with Helen Sadler, Dan Waller and M. Emmet Walsh.

  1. Steppenwolf Theatre Company 1650 N Halsted St, between Willow St and North Ave
  2. Thu Sep 18 - Sun Nov 16
More info

Smokefall

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Noah Haidle's fanciful generational portrait of a family in which one member drinks paint and eats potting soil and another character, named Footnote, omnisciently fills in what the family members leave unsaid had its world premiere in October 2013 in the Goodman's smaller Owen Theatre, earning a spot on our list of the year's ten best plays. In an unusual but welcome move, the Goodman is remounting the piece this fall in the mainstage Albert Theatre, with director Anne Kauffman and the entire ensemble, including the Jeff-nominated Mike Nussbaum, back for another go.

  1. Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St, between Randolph and Lake Sts
  2. Sat Sep 20 - Sun Oct 26
More info

The Magic Flute

  • Price band: 2/4

Cape Town's Isango Ensemble reimagines Mozart's opera with a South African setting and sound. The presentation is part of Chicago Shakespeare Theater's World's Stage series.

  1. Navy Pier Skyline Stage 600 E Grand Ave, at Streeter Dr
  2. Thu Sep 25 - Sun Sep 28
Buy tickets

Ching Chong Chinaman

  • Price band: 1/4

Lauren Yee's comedy satirizes stereotypes of Chinese-American identity via an ultra-assimilated California family that acquires an indentured servant from the People's Republic. Giau Minh Truong directs A-Squared Theatre Workshop's Chicago premiere.

  1. Raven Theatre 6157 N Clark St, between Hood and Granville Aves
  2. Sat Sep 27 - Sun Oct 19
Buy tickets

Sweeney Todd

  • Price band: 2/4

David Girolmo is the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Porchlight Music Theatre's revival of Sondheim's dark masterpiece, with Rebecca Finnegan as his murderous helpmeet, Mrs. Lovett. Michael Weber directs, with musical direction by Doug Peck.

  1. Stage 773 1225 W Belmont Ave, between Racine and Lakewood Aves
  2. Fri Oct 3 - Sun Nov 9
Buy tickets

Amazing Grace

  • Price band: 3/4

Tony nominee Josh Young stars in a new Broadway-aimed musical about John Newton, the Anglican cleric and reformed slave trader who wrote the song "Amazing Grace." The story and score are by a total newcomer named Christopher Smith, with playwright Arthur Giron as co-author of the book. Gabriel Barre directs.

  1. Bank of America Theatre 18 W Monroe St, between State and Dearborn Sts
  2. Thu Oct 9 - Sun Nov 2
Buy tickets

The Hundred Flowers Project

  • Price band: 2/4

A troupe of theater artists attempting to create a performance piece about Mao Zedong that's relevant to the social-media age get entangled in their own narratives in Bay Area playwright Christopher Chen's award-winning 2012 work. Joanie Schultz directs the Chicago premiere for Silk Road Rising.

  1. Chicago Temple 77 W Washington St, between Dearborn and Clark Sts
  2. Thu Oct 16 - Sun Nov 23
Buy tickets

Titanic

  • Price band: 2/4

This scaled-down revision of the 1997 Tony Award winner for best musical, which uses 20 actors (down from the original's 45) and restores some cut material while reordering others, premiered in 2012 at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York; a 2013 production in London won several fringe awards. Scott Weinstein (Griffin's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) directs, with musical direction by Elizabeth Doran (TimeLine's Juno). The new orchestrations, by Northwestern alum Ian Weinberger, are meant to make Maury Yeston's score sound like it's played by the ship's band.

  1. Theater Wit 1229 W Belmont Ave, between Racine and Lakewood Aves
  2. Sat Oct 18 - Sun Dec 7
Buy tickets

Strandline

  • Price band: 2/4

A Red Orchid stages the U.S. premiere of a comic drama about small-town secrets by Irish playwright Abbie Spallen (whose earlier play Pumpgirl was produced by A Red Orchid in 2009). J.R. Sullivan will direct a cast to include ensemble members Dado, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Natalie West along with Meg Warner and John Babbo.

  1. A Red Orchid Theatre 1531 N Wells St, between Schiller St and North Ave
  2. Thu Oct 23 - Sun Dec 7
Buy tickets

Great Expectations

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Strawdog's stirring new adaptation of Dickens's novel earned the No. 3 slot on Time Out Chicago's list of the best plays of 2013. Director Jason Gerace returns for a remount this fall.

  1. Strawdog Theatre Company 3829 N Broadway, between Grace St and Sheridan Rd
  2. Fri Oct 31 - Sat Dec 13
More info

Buddy Cop 2

  • Price band: 1/4

Set in small-town Indiana in the 1980s, this 2010 piece by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen's of NYC's The Debate Society is a quirky tale of cops, cancer and Christmas cheer with a slightly sinister bent. In other words, don't fret over missing Buddy Cop 1. Cassy Sanders directs Pavement Group's Midwest premiere, with a cast featuring Cyd Blakewell, Joe Zarrow, Gabe Franken and Leah Raidt.

  1. Theater Wit 1229 W Belmont Ave, between Racine and Lakewood Aves
  2. Tue Nov 25 - Sun Dec 21
More info


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