At American Blues Theater's annual gala tonight, artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside is set to announce four productions for the theater's upcoming 28th season, a larger slate than it's had in recent years. It opens in September with a new production of Randal Myler and Mark Harelik's Hank Williams: Lost Highway, which was just seen last summer ; ABT's will be directed by Damon Kiely at the Greenhouse Theater Center. It's followed by the company's annual holiday-season, radio-play edition of It's a Wonderful Life, also at the Greenhouse and helmed by Marty Higginbotham.
In February, Steve Scott will direct a new work by Christina Gorman titled American Myth, examining ethics in academia. And in June, ABT presents the Chicago premiere of George Brant's Grounded, a one-woman piece about a fighter pilot whose pregnancy gets her reassigned to piloting drones. A director for the latter show has yet to be determined.
The Goodman Theatre has released details about its 2013–14 season, a slate of nine full productions—eight as part of the subscription season, along with the 36th annual A Christmas Carol, newly helmed by artistic associate Henry Wishcamper—plus the New Stages series of works in development. The season includes three world premieres (two born out of previous New Stages lineups) and two Goodman commissions.
In the larger Albert Theatre space, the season will open in September with the Chicago premiere of Pullman Porter Blues, a 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. Wishcamper's Christmas Carol follows for the holiday season.
In January, artistic director Robert Falls directs a new work by Rebecca Gilman titled Luna Gale, about a social worker handling a tricky case. Next, Joanie Schultz helms the Chicago premiere of David Ives's lauded two-hander Venus in Fur in March and April.
Mary Zimmerman, who's currently working on her own version of Disney's The Jungle Book to debut at the Goodman this summer, will write and direct a new take on the Chinese fable The White Snake to open in May. The late-summer slot will go to the previously announced and newly revised revival of the Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon, to be directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell.
In the fall, the smaller Owen Theatre space will feature Smokefall, a world premiere by Noah Haidle in a co-production with South Coast Repertory directed by Anne Kauffman, followed in December by the New Stages series. Buzzer, a dark comedy about race and gentrification from Tracey Scott Wilson (The Good Negro), will have its Chicago premiere there in February, to be directed by Jessica Thebus. Seth Bockley's Ask Aunt Susan, a Goodman commission about a female advice columnist who's actually a twentysomething man, will premiere in the Owen in May, directed by Wishcamper.
Perhaps taking a page from the notebook of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which has made a habit of naming a theme for its recent lineups, the Goodman is calling this its "DREAM" Season. Tickets for subscriptions and groups are on sale now; individual tickets will go on sale in August.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company has added a production to this summer's programming: Greg Pierce's Slowgirl, to star ensemble member William Petersen with the fast-rising young actor Rae Gray.
Gray will play a New England teenager who, following a terrible accident, absconds to the Costa Rican retreat owned by her uncle, played by Petersen, to wait out the aftermath. Pierce's play premiered last summer at New York's Lincoln Center Theater as part of its LCT3 new-work initiative, where it received admiring reviews.
Steppenwolf ensemble member Randall Arney will helm the production in the Upstairs Theatre, running July 18–August 25. Tickets go on sale May 3.
Skokie's Northlight Theatre has revealed three of the five productions that will make up its 2013–14 season, including a Neil Simon revival, a Chicago premiere by rising playwright Amy Herzog and a world premiere by Irish playwright Christian O'Reilly to star John Mahoney.
The season will open in September with Herzog's 4000 Miles, about a young man's relationship with his grandmother. The production will follow closely on the heels of another Chicago premiere by Herzog, whose Belleville occupies the summer slot at Steppenwolf.
Mahoney will star in O'Reilly's Chapatti, opening in March, as a lonely dog owner who finds a late-life romance with a cat lady. Following in May is a revival of Simon's Pulitzer winner, Lost in Yonkers, making this two consecutive seasons with a Simon play for Northlight, which mounted his The Odd Couple last fall. Productions for the two remaining slots in the season will be announced soon, the theater says.
American Theater Company has extended its acclaimed revised version of PJ Paparelli and Stephen Karam's columbinus by three weeks, through April 7, the theater announced tonight.
Additionally, ATC says its planned revival of Hair, to be revised with the involvement of author James Rado, will be postponed from this spring to spring 2014. In its place, the company will stage a limited-run remount of Karam's Speech and Debate, which first played ATC in 2008. ATC ensemble member Sadieh Rifai will reprise her role, to be joined by Will Allan; two more cast members remain to be announced. Speech and Debate will run May 13–June 10.
You know that moment when you’re at a gay orgy and you realize you’re the ugliest person in the room? Okay, me neither, but a character (played by Brett Mannes) in pH Production’s new musical sketch comedy show Same Sex, Different Gays has been there, and he can sing all about it.
Same Sex, Different Gays, directed by Beverlee Bailey, is a sharp new show dressed in rainbow-flag flair. Sketches like “Are You a Virgin?” (which challenges notions of lesbian sexuality) and “Bitter & Numb” (about dating pessimists) prove that gay humor can be more than just a punch line. Brad Kemp wrote the music, and the best song is about one-night stands, like taking a guy home and him not being, um, "properly prepared." With some changes it could inspire Katy Perry's next big hit.
A couple of the sketches were a little too let’s-all-get-gay-married-and-stop-being-bitter for the OkCupid cynic in me, but with the recent gay marriage bill passed by the Illinois Senate (on Valentine's Day, no less), these were timely and relevant. The show's point of view on relationships is strongest when it's most subtle. For example, in the sketch "At First," a lesbian couple, stuck in the daily routine of marriage, tell their child what their relationship was like when they first met. It's a very real situation many couples confront.
While the material is gay-themed, most of the sketches deal with relationship issues. Here's a little secret: Queer couples have problems similar to their hetero counterparts', just with a little more glitter. That is to say, you don’t have to be part of the LGBT community to like this show or get the jokes—well, most of them.
Same Sex Different Gays plays Saturdays at 9:30pm through Mar. 30 at pH Comedy Theater.
Earlier this month, Broadway in Chicago hosted a preview event for, the new musical opening in April for a pre-Broadway tryout at the Oriental Theatre. Following remarks by director Susan Stroman, stars Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin performed "Time Stops," a number from Andrew Lippa's score. Watch the video below. (The music stars at about three minutes in.)
Crime noir isn’t the easiest genre to capture on stage, but the Den Theatre does admirable work with Don Nigro’s City of Dreadful Night, a quickly paced thriller in which everyone has something to hide. Justine C. Turner delivers a sultry performance as Anna, a femme fatale who lures two men into her web of deception that stretches back to before World War II. Turner got her first taste of theater as a child, and she began performing when her family moved to Oak Park. She became acquainted with Chicago theater as an undergraduate at Columbia College, and since graduating has gone on to become an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre. Turner speaks to us about classic femme fatales, how noir is like Shakespeare, and why the genre still resonates with contemporary audiences.
IN>TIME Performance Festival cofounder Mark Jeffery knows how to draw attention. The U.K. native, SAIC assistant professor and performance artist spoke to another TOC editor just days before our interview. “It was the weirdest thing, I was taking my class to record sound in the Haymarket location,” he tells me. “These guys appeared from nowhere and I was like, “Who the hell are you?” (For more on that, click here.) He talks about his humble beginnings, and the future of Chicago’s growing multi-venue, multi-performer biennial arts fest.
After occupying multiple spaces in Pilsen for its first three years, the Chicago Fringe Festival is relocating to Jefferson Park for its 2013 iteration. The fest will set its lineup at a lottery party at the neighborhood's Gale Street Inn (4914 N Milwaukee Ave) on Saturday, March 2, beginning at 1:30pm.
When the first Chicago Fringe was in, organizers announced their intention to move the fest to a different neighborhood each year, but the festival ended up remaining in Pilsen until now. The Chicago Fringe Festival presents works by approximately 50 performance groups over the first two weeks of September.
CFF executive director Vinnie Lacey cites the success of the Gift Theatre and, more recently, in Jefferson Park and Portage Park. In a statement, 45th Ward Ald. John Arena welcomed the Fringe Festival, saying, "Coupled with the transportation access for visitors from Chicago and the suburbs means this year’s Festival will be a great success. I want to thank the organizers of the Festival for adding another reason why people should visit Jefferson Park."