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The Gift Theatre to stage ‘Hang Man,’ ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Cosmologies’ in 2018

Written by
Kris Vire

The Gift Theatre, the 40-seat Equity storefront theater in Jefferson Park, announced plans for its 2018 season on Sunday.

The three-play slate includes a world premiere by Glenwood, Illinois, native Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour, a Chicago premiere by Gift ensemble member David Rabe and a new take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Osei-Kuffour’s Hang Man (February 9–April 8) is a portrait of “a shitty southern town” in the wake of a murder, after a black man is found hanging from a tree. The play “uses absurdity to explore racism, sexuality, and the parts of American history we would all like to forget,” according to the Gift’s description; Erica Weiss will direct the premiere.

Monty Cole, whose 2016 Oracle Productions staging of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape won four readers’ choice prizes in last year’s Time Out Chicago Theater Awards, will direct Hamlet (June 1–July 29), with what sounds like a modern bent: “After the death of his dad, a young black man named Hamlet returns home to grieve and seek revenge,” reads the brief.

Rabe, the 77-year-old Tony winner who joined the Gift’s ensemble last year after the company produced the world premiere of his play Good for Otto in 2015, will be represented by Cosmologies (October 12–December 9). Rabe told Crain’s earlier this year that doing a reading of the absurdist comedy, “which has a difficult tone that had been messed up by a couple of small companies,” with the Gift’s ensemble last fall helped persuade him to join the company. Gift artistic director Michael Patrick Thornton will helm the production.

The Gift also announced the addition of five new artists to its ensemble: Evan Michael Lee, Chika Ike, Martel Manning, Gregory Fenner and Hannah Toriumi. And the theater confirmed dates for the 2018 edition of TEN, its annual new-year festival of world premiere 10-minute plays, which will run January 5 to 14.

The Gift’s current production, Pilgrims, runs through July 30.

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