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Early picks for the 2012–13 season in Chicago theater

We scan the first wave of season announcements for attention grabbers.
Photo: Michael Brosilow Tarell Alvin McCraney in rehearsal for The Brother/Sister Plays at Steppenwolf Theatre Company
By Kris Vire |

Season Announcement Season began in earnest last week, as my in-box filled with newly announced 2012–13 slates from theaters small and large. This first wave of next season’s lineups contains the usual blend of recent Broadway shows, tantalizing new work, revivals of the tried-and-true and some more adventurous fare. I put on my prognosticator’s cap to pick next season’s best bets (so far).

We’ve known the biggest news for Broadway in Chicago’s subscription season since last year: December’s arrival of megahit The Book of Mormon. In recent weeks BIC’s added the touring Sister Act and How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the pre-Broadway tryout of the new Kinky Boots. Book early for… Book of Mormon. Duh. Tickets go on sale Monday 19.

The fall slate at the DCA Theater comprises a trio of young companies using the city-funded Storefront Theater space to try out some daring work. Sideshow Theatre Company’s Idomeneus is contemporary German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s fractured take on Greek myth; horror-minded WildClaw Theatre adapts The Life of Death from a Clive Barker story; and BackStage Theatre Company mounts Steven Levenson’s The Language of Trees, about the family of an American man being held captive in the Middle East.
Book early for… Given Sideshow’s stellar recent track record, we’re betting on Idomeneus.

This autumn the Goodman Theatre gives hometown boy David Cromer his chance at Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth after Broadway plans fell through. We’ll also see a pair of New York–approved plays (Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities, Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark) and a trio of new works from Dael Orlandersmith, Christopher Shinn and Quiara Alegría Hudes. Book early for… Amid a solid season, we’re swinging for Mary Zimmerman’s big-time, Disney-backed adaptation of The Jungle Book.

Northlight Theatre mostly plays it safe with a Woody Guthrie music revue called Woody Sez, crowd-pleasing Irish comedy Stones in His Pockets and a revival of Neil Simon chestnut The Odd Couple starring George Wendt and Tim Kazurinsky. Looking for a Grandparents’ Day present? Book early for… Young playwright Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man, addressing race in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, sounds like the closest thing to adult drama on the slate.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company opens a season rife with ensemble members—16 were confirmed at press time—with two plays of recent Broadway vintage: David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People and Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherfucker with the Hat. (The latter comes with its original director, Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro, attached.) Also on the bill are Pinter’s The Birthday Party and Belleville, by up-and-comer Amy Herzog. Book early for… World premiere Head of Passes reunites writer Tarell Alvin McCraney and director Tina Landau of The Brother/Sister Plays—our top selection of 2010—for a Southern tale inspired by the Job story.

The reliable off-Loop troupers at Strawdog Theatre Company have a kooky-sounding lineup, and we mean that as a compliment. Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, Jennifer Haley’s darkly comic thriller about a zombie role-playing game taking over a suburban ’hood, sounds right up director Joanie Schultz’s alley. Artistic director Brandon Bruce will direct Improbable Frequency, a quirky musical born out of the Edinburgh Fringe, while Matt Hawkins puts his spin on Chuck Mee’s Big Love. Book early for… Neighborhood 3 has our interest piqued.

More top picks J.T. Rogers’s CIA-in-Afghanistan drama Blood and Gifts at TimeLine Theatre Company, Rodgers and Hart’s problematic classic Pal Joey at Porchlight Music Theatre, David Greig's adaptation of Strindberg's Creditors at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Gary Griffin's revisit to Sunday in the Park with George at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and an intimate take on mod musical Sweet Charity at Writers’ Theatre.

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