All Shakespeare, All the Time

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midsummer_nights_dream1.jpgI’ve had so much Shakespeare this past few weeks, that I almost feel like Judi Dench (well, turning the 40th year milestone did that too).  There’s always something Shakespearean going on somewhere in this city’s energetic arts community, but to have both Anne Bogart and the SITI Company‘s experimental take on Macbeth which had already drawn raves in New York’s Under the Radar Festival of cutting-edge work, as well as British director Tim Supple’s vibrant, highly-acclaimed, polyglot version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in the Indian subcontinent, on stage at the same time, is some kind of special. I saw both last weekend, but unfortunately, both shows have already closed as of this writing. 

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Sweet November

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This month will be theatergoing month on steroids.  There’s a lot of significant productions opening in Chicago in the next several weeks, and I’m hoping I’ll have enough time to go to most of them (I do have to work, too, in my day job, you know, so I can afford to go to all this theater!).  Of course, the centerpiece of my month, the one production I am both breathlessly anticipating and apprehensive about is the Elevator Repair Service‘s much-acclaimed seven-hour Gatz, on stage at the MCA next week, which combines a complete reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby with a play set in a dumpy office, in which the employees start taking on the personas of the book’s characters.  This could either be a transcendent experience, or utter folly.  I can’t wait- I’ve been preparing like a triathlete for it:  reading up on The Great Gatsby (I read the book in high school and saw the Robert Redford-Mia Farrow movie decades ago), meditating, doing extra gluteal exercises (at the gym! get your minds out of the gutter!) to ensure that I can actually sit and focus for seven hours straight.  Chris Jones seems to be as excited and apprehensive as I am, and reports that Gatz tickets are going fast- wow!  I’m also seeing Radio Macbeth at the Court Theater next weekend, Anne Bogart and the SITI company’s take on Macbeth framed by a ghost story and supposedly using sound as a dynamic and innovative theatrical device.  It has already been shown at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, New York’s annual showcase for cutting-edge work, where it received very good reviews.  Right before Thanksgiving, the British production A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which sets the famous Shakespeare comedy in the Indian subcontinent and incorporates Indian language, culture, and sensibility, opens at Chicago Shakespeare.  This production has toured Europe and Australia, and has received unqualified raves everywhere it’s been staged.  Despite the fact that I nearly puked the last time I was at the Goodman because of the horror that was Turn of the Century, I’ll be spending quite a bit of time there this month.  I’m catching a preview for Ruined, Lynn Nottage’s new play about the victimization of women during the Congo civil war, co-produced with the Manhattan Theater Club, which will premiere off-Broadway in January 2009, right after it’s Goodman production,with the same cast and director, Kate Whoriskey.  The Goodman is also holding a series of staged readings for Noah Haidle’s work-in-progress opus, Local Time, “twelve two-act plays that trace a 24-hour period in the life of a town”, according to the theater’s website.  I already have tickets for the first one, 5-7 AM, about a young couple who takes in a baby left on their doorstep and is horrified to see the infant grow into a chain-smoking, coffee-guzzling, human-condition pondering adult in 20 minutes.  Sounds precious, and I sometimes feel that Haidle is like the male version of Sarah Ruhl, but it also sounds intriguing.  Plus this is a good opportunity to see new work by a playwright with a rising national profile.  I’ll be getting tickets for the other two readings depending on what I think about 5-7 AM.  At the Steppenwolf, despite what I think is pretty low-key marketing, many performances are already sold out for Dublin Carol, Conor McPherson’s intimate play about an alcoholic undertaker seeking redemption, starring CSI star William Petersen and directed by August: Osage County goddess, Amy Morton.  Collaboraction has already opened Jon, a world premiere adaptation of hip novelist (and MacArthur Genius grant recipient) George Saunder’s much-talked about short story.  Saunders worked closely with director and adaptor Seth Bockley, and has been doing press to support the play.  Although I’ve found many Remy Bumppo productions in the past to be more effective than Ambien and Lunesta combined, I am curious to see their version of Beaurmachais’ The Marraige of Figaro, the basis of the famed Mozart opera, in a new translation by Ranjit Bolt. It’s also being directed by up and coming Chicago theater director Jonathan Berry, so I’m hoping that the snooze factor is low to non-existent.  Finally, TUTA (in support of full disclosure, I’m on their Board) is unveiling The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (yes, it’s that famous play by our man Bill) later this month.  TUTA is always gutsy, imaginative, and singular in their theatrical concepts, so I’m betting this isn’t going to be stand-and-declaim Shakespeare.  Whew, so many plays, so little time!