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10 Chicago theater shows to see in January

Stay warm with a wide array of new plays to start off the new year

By Alex Huntsberger |
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Photograph: Joe Mazza

Kick off the new decade by becoming a theater buff (or amateur—we’re not judging) with the most exciting new plays that Chicago has to offer this month. Political junkies have their eyes on Victory Gardens’s Nancy Pelosi biography, The Adult in the Room, as well as Roe at the Goodman Theatre, which takes a closer look at two young women embroiled in the 1973 landmark trial of Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, Once On This Island at the Cadillac Palace and Sean Graney’s take on The Mousetrap at The Court Theatre offer slightly lighter fare. Whether you want to dive into the century’s knottiest topics or curl up with a good old-fashioned yarn, Chicago’s theater scene has you covered. Here are 10 plays and musicals opening in January that will be well worth braving the winter cold to see.

January theater picks

Photograph: Jordan Matter
Theater

The Adult in the Room

Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Sheffield & DePaul

Haven’t had your fill of politics for the decade? This one-woman show chronicles the life and times of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she builds her career and shifts from achieving consensus to fighting the good partisan fight. Broadway actress Orlagh Cassidy stars as Pelosi in a script from Bill McMahon in a world premiere production at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theatre. 

Photographs: Courtesy About Face Theatre
Theater

The Gulf

Theater Wit, Lake View

Kendra and Betty are spending most of their fishing trip on the Alabama Delta arguing about their relationship and their regrets. And that’s before their boat breaks down, stranding them on open water. Megan Carney directs Kelli Simpkins and Deanna Meyer in this drama from writer Audrey Cefaly.

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Photograph: Joe Martinez
Theater

Sheepdog

Theater Wit, Lake View

Two Cleveland police officers are falling deeply in love until the search for truth following an officer-involved shooting threatens to tear them apart. Leslie Ann Sheppard and Drew Schad star in this two-hander from playwright Kevin Artigue directed by Wardell Julius Clark for Shattered Globe Theatre.

Photograph: DJ Paine via Unsplash
Theater

Top Girls

Theater Wit, Lake View

Caryl Churchill’s Thatcher-era classic tackles issues surrounding feminism, ambition and capitalism in ways that have only grown more prescient in a post-Lean In world. Keira Fromm directs this theatrically daring, stone-cold brilliant script for Remy Bumppo Theatre Company with Linda Gillum in the starring role.

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Photograph: Dan Gold via Unsplash
Theater

The Tasters

Rivendell Theatre, Edgewater

In Meghan Brown’s satirical thriller—directed here in its world premiere by Devon de Mayo—a rash of high-profile poisonings leads all top-tier government officials to employ “tasters.” When resistance leader Elyse is captured and forced to work as a taster, her captors have no idea what she’s got in store for them. 

Theater

Once On This Island

Cadillac Palace Theatre, Loop

A wager between the gods leads to an epic love story set amidst the tangled legacy of French colonialism in the Caribbean. Featuring a beautiful score from Ragtime composer Stephen Flaherty, this tour of the 2018 Tony winner for Best Revival of a Musical features American Idol alum Tamyra Gray as the villainous demon Papa Ge.

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Steep Theatre Company
Photo: Grace Wiley
Theater

The Leopard Play, or sad songs for boys

Steep Theatre, Edgewater

In this thrilling, moving new play from beloved local playwright Isaac Gomez, a young man reckons with a violent history when he returns to his home along the border between the U.S. and Mexico to solve the mystery of his uncle’s disappearance. Laura Alcalá Baker directs this world premiere production for Steep Theatre. 

Photograph: Joe Mazza
Theater

The Mousetrap

Court Theatre, Hyde Park

If Knives Out got you hungry for a good old-fashioned murder mystery—one with plenty of twists and turns—then Court Theatre has you covered with this production of Agatha Christie’s renowned The Mousetrap. And in the hands of a theatrical mischief-maker like director Sean Graney, this production promises to be extra twisty. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Goodman Theatre
Theater

Roe

Goodman Theatre | Chicago, IL, Loop

In Lisa Loomer’s Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. isn’t the end of the story—it’s the beginning. In following the twin stories of attorney Sarah Weddington and plaintiff Norma McCorvey, Roe traces how abortion access has become one of the most polarizing issues in a country that’s full of issues. 

How To Defend Yourself
Photograph: Todd Rosenberg Photography
Theater

How to Defend Yourself

Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Sheffield & DePaul

In Liliana Padilla’s How to Defend Yourself, A self-defense class for seven college students turns into a crucible for female rage and a razor-edged inquiry into rape culture. This world premiere, helmed by Cambodian Rock Band director Marti Lyons, was developed as a part of  Victory Gardens Theater's 2018 Ignition Festival.

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