Critic's picks for Theater Week 2019
Need a break from the anxiety-inducing dramas in your Netflix queue? Take a load off with FRIENDS! The Musical Parody, which sends up all best moments from the show’s decade-long run in songs like “Will They or Won’t They,” “I am Marcel, the Monkey!” and “Could I BE Anymore... in Love with You.”
In this new world premiere from Rebecca Gilman, six women in a small-town Wisconsin bowling alley face the trials of adulthood and the consequences of the different paths they choose. Heather Chrisler stars as the college-bound Sam alongside Becca Savoy as Sam’s not-so-college-bound cousin Jaycee.
Russian choreographer Yuri Possokhov stages a world premiere collaboration between the Joffrey and the Australian Ballet. This adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel of frustrated love features original music from award-winning composer Ilya Demutsky.
In this dark existential comedy from Kareem Bandealy, a traditional nuclear family receives a mysterious envelope informing them of a very special guest coming for dinner. As they scramble to welcome their cosmic visitor, things start to get just a wee bit absurd. Like any good dark comedy, this show is best suited for audience members who are 13 and up.
If you’re not yet familiar with local actress Sydney Charles, then her portrayal of singer/activist/icon Nina Simone is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself. Christina Ham’s play chronicles Simon’s political awakening, which led to her powerful Civil Rights anthems such as “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”
Blake Hammond and Jake Morrissy take the Paramount stage as the titular producers cum grifters Bialystock and Bloom, who try to make a guaranteed Broadway flop. They fail (or is it succeed?) miserably. Comedies rarely age well, and yet Mel Brooks’s The Producers still packs a Hitler-walloping punch.
The 2014 Tony Award winner for Best Musical gets its local premiere from Porchlight Theatre. Actor Matt Crowle stars in the role of “The D'Ysquith family,” which is to say that he plays all the people who get murdered. Don’t worry, though—it’s a comedy. And a very funny one at that, with a toe-tapping score that will leave you humming many a murderous melody.
Second City’s 107th mainstage revue takes on the horrifying, exhilarating, entirely overwhelming experience of being alive in 2019. Featuring Second City cast members Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Jeffrey Murdoch, Emma Pope, Nate Varrone and Kimberly Michelle Vaughn, laughs are algorithmically guaranteed to ensue.
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House famously ends with “the door slam heard ‘round the world,” when housewife Nora leaves her husband Torvald for good. Lucas Hnath’s Tony-nominated sequel, on the other hand, begins with a knock. Nora’s back. Sandra Marquez stars in this Chicago premiere from director Robin Witt at Steppenwolf.
Whether or not you’re familiar with Ike Holter’s seven-play Chicago cycle, you should check out this newest entry. Directed by Jonathan Berry, Red Rex concerns a scrappy storefront theatre troupe that finds itself in an intense confrontation with locals who want them gone. Ideal for Chicago theatre obsessives who get why the color red in the title is funny.
Michael Frayn’s modern comedy classic about a dysfunctional theatre troupe is the speed metal of stage farce: When done well, the laughs come so hard and fast that it’s difficult to keep up. The good folks at Windy City Playhouse up the ante by adding a multi-stage layout that promises to immerse audiences in the action.
Inside a dark church in northern Uganda, two teenage girls—one a local, the other the daughter of American missionaries—prepare to wed each other in a secret ceremony. Hansol Jung’s gutting drama about love in a time of intolerance receives its Chicago premiere from director Mechelle Moe at Timeline Theatre.