July theater picks
How would one spice up Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th-century pastoral romance The Arcadia for modern audiences? A book from Avenue Q author Jeff Whitty doesn’t hurt, and neither does tossing in songs from The Go-Go’s. Fresh off its run on Broadway, this Chicago premiere promises gender-bending romance spiked with lots of laughs.
If this classic American musical about a charming con man’s mission to bilk the people of River City, Iowa, out of their hard-earned smackeroonies seems especially timely right now. Then again, has there ever been a time when con men weren’t in style? Geoff Packard stars as Harold Hill in this new revival from director Mary Zimmerman at The Goodman.
In 1982, Gary Sinise’s production of Sam Shepard’s True West—starring young unknowns Jeff Perry and John Malkovich—put Steppenwolf on the map. Now the Lincoln Park theater is reviving the show with actors Jon Michael Hill and Namir Smallwood taking over the roles of Hollywood screenwriter Austin and his vagrant, thieving brother, Lee.
In this surreal thriller from Alistair McDowall, a woman searches for her missing sister across a dark, eldritch urbanscape. Things start weird and then get much weirder. Director Robin Witt helmed McDowall’s Brilliant Adventures at Steep Theatre back in 2015, and this followup is likely to be the surprise D&D-inspired hit of the summer.
A pair of couples meet up to watch soap operas, only for their double date to turn into a soap opera itself. This is the first twist in Guillermo Calderon’s strange comedic drama—but it’s far from the last. Empathy may have its limits in Kiss, but Calderon’s wild imagination doesn’t seem to. Monty Cole directs and co-stars for Haven Theatre.
This Tony-winning musical from Irene Sankoff and David Hein is based on a true story: After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thousands of stranded American passengers were welcomed in by the residents of a tiny Newfoundland town. This national tour of the Broadway production, directed by Christopher Ashley, promises to be a heartwarming respite from, well, everything.
In 2017, the staff at the Cambria Hotel were shocked to discover a long forgotten theater hidden behind their walls. Two years later, the newly renovated space is being christened by Love, Chaos & Dinner, a circus/comedy/cabaret confection from Seattle-based troupe Teatro ZinZanni. The show is performed inside a Belgian mirror tent and features a menu from Debbie Sharpe of The Goddess and Grocer.
Fans of composer Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 should check out the Chicago premiere of Malloy’s century- and genre-spanning song cycle, Ghost Quartet, courtesy of Black Button Eyes Productions. With source material as disparate as Thelonious Monk and Edgar Allan Poe to the Arabian Nights and Carl Sagan, Malloy’s whiskey-soaked tales of love and murder should prove a heady brew.