The beginning of the fall theater season continues to creep backward into August, with terrific new shows already up and running including TimeLine Theatre Company's A Raisin in the Sun and the Hypocrites' 12 Nights. But with Labor Day officially past us, it's time to look ahead to what's new and necessary in the next few months—including highly anticipated performances like Joan Allen's return to Steppenwolf in The Wheel and David Cromer's turn in The Normal Heart. Here's what we're most intrigued by on Chicago stages this fall.
The Old Man and the Old Moon The acclaimed young theater-slash-music collective PigPen Theatre Co., which formed when its members were students at Carnegie Mellon University, makes its Chicago-area debut in collaboration with the guys' former instructor, Writers' Theatre associate artistic director Stuart Carden. This piece of indie-folk invented myth, about the moon's caretaker abandoning his post to follow true love, was praised by our pals at Time Out New York for containing "a winning combination of storytelling, shadow puppetry, Irish-tinged tunes and youthful vigor." Writers Theatre. Previews start Sept 3. Opens Sept 12. Through Nov 10.
B-Side Studio Good times: The Inconvenience, the New Colony and the University of Chicago join forces to put up a ’70s-style TV sitcom about a Chicago recording studio. Co-writers Ike Holter and Evan Linder debut a new episode each week of the run, taped before a live studio audience and made available for online viewing at thenewcolony.org and theinconvenience.org the Monday after the performances. Logan Center for the Arts. Opens Sept 13. Through Oct 12.
The Mountaintop Katori Hall's play, which imagines an encounter between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a Lorraine Motel housekeeper on the final night of King's life, is among the most-produced new plays in the country this season. Ron OJ Parson helms the Chicago premiere at Court Theatre, running concurrently with Parson's transcendent revival of A Raisin in the Sun at TimeLine Theatre. Court Theatre. Previews start Sept 5. Opens Sept 14. Through Oct 6.
In the Heights Rachel Rockwell helms the first full Chicago-area production of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes's slice-of-life in Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood, the winner of the 2008 Tony Award for best musical. Paramount Theatre. Previews start Sept 11. Opens Sept 14. Through Oct 6.
4000 Miles Mary Ann Thebus and Josh Salt portray an estranged grandmother and grandson who bridge ideological differences in Amy Herzog's Obie Award winner, a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize. Kimberly Senior directs the Midwest premiere. Northlight Theatre. Previews start Sept 13. Opens Sept 20. Through Oct 20.
The Wheel Ensemble member Joan Allen returns to the Steppenwolf stage for the first time since 1991 in the American premiere of Zinnie Harris's historical drama in which the history is amorphous. Tina Landau directs the action as it impossibly sweeps across a century's worth of wars. Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Previews start Sept 12. Opens Sept 22. Through Nov 10.
Pullman Porter Blues The Goodman Theatre's fall season opens with the Chicago premiere of this piece centered on the 1937 championship bout between Joe Louis and James Braddock as well as three generations of African-American train porters. The play, by Cheryl L. West and directed by Chuck Smith, is infused with classic blues numbers. Goodman Theatre. Starts previews Sept 14. Opens Sept 24. Through Oct 20.
Unwilling and Hostile Instruments: 100 Years of Extraordinary Chicago Women Theatre Seven of Chicago marks the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Illinois with a new work chronicling the lives of seven remarkable figures as depicted by nine Chicago playwrights. The full-length piece includes contributions by Seth Bockley (Maurine Watkins), Ike Holter and Elaine Romero (Jane Addams), Emily Schwartz (Cora Strayer), Carla Stillwell (Ida B. Wells), Nick Ward (Myra Bradwell), Travis Williams (Mavis Staples) and Lauren Yee (Ann Landers), with additional text by Theatre Seven artistic director Brian Golden. American Theater Company. Previews Oct 1. Opens Oct 2. Through Oct 27.
Cyrano de Bergerac Harry Groener, who won a best actor Jeff Award as the king in The Madness of George III, returns to take the title schnozz in Rostand's paean to panache, reuniting with Madness director Penny Metropulos. Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Previews start Sept 24. Opens Oct 2. Through Nov 10.
Motortown Steep Theatre continues its close association with British playwright Simon Stephens, mounting the North American premiere of Stephens's 2006 piece about a soldier returning home from Iraq to find that England feels just as foreign. Robin Witt directs. Steep Theatre. Opens Oct 3. Through Nov 9.
The North China Lover Tony winner Deanna Dunagan and Rae Gray play author Marguerite Duras at different ages in Lookingglass Theatre Company's season opener. In Heidi Stillman's new adaptation of Duras's 1991 autobiographical novel, Dunagan portrays the older Duras, looking back on her 14-year-old self (Gray) as she begins an affair with a 27-year-old Chinese aristocrat (Tim Chiou) in French Indochina. Lookingglass Theatre Company. Previews start Sept 25. Opens Oct 5. Through Nov 10.
Once The intimate Tony-winning musical, based on the equally gentle Irish indie film about a pair of Dublin folk musicians' whirlwind not-quite-romance, gets a too-brief Chicago touring stop in a too-large house. Here's hoping its quiet, yearning charm doesn't get swallowed up by the scale. The touring cast stars Stuart Ward, from the West End production, and Dani de Waal of Broadway's Picnic as the nameless Guy and Girl; the ensemble includes Chicago actors Claire Wellin and Tiffany Topol, with topol understudying for Girl. Oriental Theatre. Opens Oct 9. Through Oct 27.
The Life and Death of Madam Barker We first met madcap Molly Brennan's sassy, seductive alter ego Madam Barker in 2009's 500 Clown and the Elephant Deal. Barker returns in her own star vehicle at Red Tape, with the help of director Eric Hoff (Hit the Wall), playwright Brooke Allen and music maestro John Fournier. Red Tape Theatre. Opens Oct 14. Through Nov 10.
The Normal Heart David Cromer stars as activist Ned Weeks in TimeLine Theatre Company's revival of Larry Kramer's vital drama about the early years of the AIDS crisis. Nick Bowling directs a cast that also includes Mary Beth Fisher as Dr. Emma Brookner, Patrick Andrews as Felix Turner and Marc Grapey as Ben Weeks, with Stephen Cone (David/Hiram Keebler/Examining Doctor/Ensemble), Joel Gross (Bruce Niles), Nik Kourtis (Donner/Grady/Ensemble), Stephen Rader (Mickey Marcus) and Alex Weisman (Tommy Boatwright). Stage 773. Previews start Oct 26. Opens Nov 1. Through Dec 22.
Appropriate Reuniting to sort through the family home in Arkansas following the patriarch's death, squabbling siblings make a disturbing discovery among Dad's possessions. Victory Gardens' production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins's new work is a co-premiere with Actors Theatre of Louisville, where I found it quite bracing at last spring's Humana Festival; director Gary Griffin returns with a new Chicago cast that includes Kirsten Fitzgerald, Cheryl Graeff, Leah Karpel, Keith Kupferer and Stef Tovar. Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. Previews start Nov 8. Opens Nov 15. Through Dec 8.
An Iliad Timothy Edward Kane reprises his remarkable solo performance in Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson's one-man adaptation of Homer's epic poem, one of TOC's top ten shows of 2011. Court Theatre. Previews start Nov 13. Opens Nov 16. Through Dec 8.
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