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Greek out and Chekhov three great summer plays

Written by
Kris Vire

The writers of three of the best plays you can see this month are all living, but the works they build on come from playwrights who are no longer with us—some of them haven't been for thousands of years.

The Hypocrites' remount of All Our Tragic, our number one play of 2014, does what it says on the tin: Adapter-director Sean Graney took all 32 surviving works by Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles and wove them into one astonishing, unexpectedly funny and ultimately moving storyline, played out in contemporary vernacular by a cast of 17 over the course of a full 12-hour day (with plenty of potty breaks and provided meals). It's one of the most transcendent theater experiences you're likely to ever have, and you only have eight more chances, through August 9 at the Den Theatre.

There's an element of Greek drama in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, in the character of Cassandra, the clairvoyant cleaning lady played by E. Faye Butler at the Goodman. This Cassandra is well aware of her prophetic namesake (who's played by Christine Stulik in All Our Tragic). But the main source of playwright Christopher Durang's inspiration is Anton Chekhov; though set very much in the present day—all the better to allow Ross Lehman's simmering Vanya to boil over into a delightfully epic rant about modern technology and its isolations—Durang's comedy liberally references Chekhov classics Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters and The Seagull. The Goodman today announced an additional week of performances, running through August 2.

Chekhov is also the rather loose basis of Stupid Fucking Bird, Aaron Posner's salty "sort-of-adaptation" of The Seagull. Sideshow Theatre Company's production of this slippery, self-aware modern reboot also made our list of the best shows of 2014; it, too, gets a remount next week at Victory Gardens, with its full original cast, running July 23–August 30. It'd be stupid not to take advantage of a second chance to see it.

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