With so much going on outside—Lollapalooza, Market Days, the Air and Water Show—August tends to be the slowest month of the year for theater in Chicago. But it’s no longer the actors’ holiday it once was; more and more productions in recent years have avoided the crush of September openings by scooting up a few weeks. This August brings with it a high-profile musical tryout with eyes on Broadway, notable Chicago premieres and more for when you’re ready to escape into the A/C.
August theater picks
Based on the Oscar-winning short film of the same name (which also inspired the teen suicide prevention nonprofit The Trevor Project), this new musical premieres at Writers Theatre with eyes on Broadway and commercial producers attached. It follows an imaginative teenage boy and Diana Ross superfan in the early ’80s as he comes to terms with being gay. The writers are Dan Collins and Julianne Wick Davis; Marc Bruni (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) directs.
Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre hosts Strawdog Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of Robert O’Hara’s 2015 comedy about an intervention at a family picnic (from the author of Bootycandy, this makes perfect sense). The hinge here is that scenes alternate between two families, one white and the other black but all with the same names—and that’s not even the big twist. Damon Kiely directs.
This cult-favorite 1998 musical, created by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott with music by the Tiger Lillies, is a gleefully grotesque “nasty picture book” about naughty children getting grisly comeuppances. A touring production played Chicago in 2001, but Black Button Eyes Productions’ new version is the first locally-born staging.
British scribe Peter Morgan has made Queen Elizabeth II into a cottage industry. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for The Queen, then wrote The Audience, about Elizabeth’s relationships with her prime ministers—and then turned the play into his Emmy-magnet Netflix series The Crown. TimeLine stalwart Janet Ulrich Brooks plays Her Royal Majesty in Nick Bowling’s Chicago premiere.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center of New York City
Karla, a young comedian, and Don, a middle-aged soon-to-be divorcé, bond over inappropriate jokes when their mothers become roommates in the hospital in Halley Feiffer’s dark comedy. Keira Fromm directs Route 66 Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere.
Kristoffer Diaz’s boisterous satire of race and pro wrestling, which premiered at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater in 2009 and became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, returns to the ring in a storefront-sized staging via Red Theater Chicago. Jeremy Aluma directs.