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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

Photograph: Joe Mazza
By Alex Huntsberger |

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: Joe Martinez


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

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.

Steep Theatre Company
Photo: Grace Wiley

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: Courtesy Goodman Theatre


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

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.