Last Sunday evening, in what was supposedly spring in Chicago, as I miserably waited for the train to arrive on the Brown Line platform, pelted by freezing rain and snow, standing in slush, I wondered what kind of perfect past life (maybe filled with warm, tropical breezes, constant sunlight, and boys in thongs?) did I have that I should be paying for it in this life. The weather for the rest of the month may continue to be unseasonably cold, but the city’s performing arts scene is continuing to warm up and sizzle, with tons of major theater and music events to go to. As my monthly public service announcement to my avid blog readers, I’m giving a preview of the noteworthy performances and events I’m planning to go to in the month of April.
Chicago theater in April is being dominated by two major, highly-anticipated Shakespeare productions. I’ve already seen one of them – a surprisingly contemporary, highly engaging take on Twelfth Night at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (three words: lots of water), directed by the hot, young English director, Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of the highly-acclaimed, new-writing focused Bush Theatre in London. Watch out for my blog post on that. The other buzzy Shakespeare is Steppenwolf‘s The Tempest, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau, starring ensemble member Frank Galati, the great writer/director/actor, as Prospero, the first Shakespeare play the esteemed ensemble has undertaken in its 35 years. I’m really excited to see it, since Galati is such a perfect match for the role, and also because the supporting role of Gonzalo, usually played by a man, is being performed by the fabulous Lois Smith. I’ll be seeing it this week, although initial impressions from others who’ve seen previews and the opening this weekend have been surprisingly mixed.
Speaking of the Bush Theatre, a play that originated there, Abbie Spallen’s Pumpgirl, will be receiving its Midwest premiere at the Red Orchid Theatre. It’s supposed to be a wacky Irish road trip (are there any other kinds?) so I’m excited to see what Red Orchid’s no-holds-barred sensibilities do with the material. Artistic Director Kirsten Fitzgerald and ensemble member Larry Grimm stars. I’m also hightailing it to the Goodman at some point in the month for the world premiere of Naomi Izuka’s Ghostwritten, a vaguely supernatural-sounding tale of an American woman who makes a deal with a mysterious Asian woman involving personal success and her first born child. I saw Izuka’s Strike/Slip, a more insightful, Asian version of Crash, at the Humana Festival a couple of years ago, and I think she’s a very impressive writer. Another notable opening this month is Timeline Theatre‘s Midwest premiere of Alan Bennett’s Tony-winning The History Boys, about a year in the life of British schoolboys preparing to enter university. I saw the Broadway production, which I thought was impeccably acted by an ensemble that include Tony winner Richard Griffiths and a still green but already undeniably magnetic, pre-Mamma Mia Dominic Cooper (could he have been in my past life too?), but was dramatically underwhelming. I’ll be curious to see what Timeline does to stir this play up. Finally, despite my inability to follow directions outside a 606xx zip code, I’ll be checking out Northlight Theatre‘s production of Martin McDonagh’s well-reviewed The Lieutenant of Inishmore, directed by Artistic Director BJ Jones, IN SKOKIE.
The storefront theater scene is hopping during the month as well. Collaboraction‘s Sketchbook, that always ambitious and intriguing, sometimes disappointing mélange of short plays, art, and music, is being staged from April 16-May 10, instead of the summer, which it usually anchored. Infamous Commonwealth Theatre is staging Frank Galati’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the play that heralded Steppenwolf’s First Coming on Broadway in the mid-1980s. Finally, I am very intrigued by a new theater company called Tymphanic Theatre, which is “dedicated to producing unsolicited new work”, and their new play Musing, about a belligerent Muse who starts invading the life of a car salesman. Now that’s a new work I’d like to see! It’s going to be at the Side Project in Rogers Park.
On the dance front, I already have tickets for Compagnie Marie Chouinard’s Orpheus and Eurydice which plays the MCA Stage only from April 17-19. This critically-acclaimed Canadian experimental dance company is well-known for its racy, uber-sexy productions and the MCA website already has a “Recommended for Mature Audiences” advisory.
I’ve previously talked about the Chicago Opera Theater‘s Opera Underground program, which I will incessantly and loudly champion, since it aims to bring new, non-traditional audiences to opera. I’ve put my money where my blog is, and I’ve purchased my Opera Underground subscription for this year, so on April 29, I’ll be seeing their Studio 54-meets-Ancient-Rome production of Mozart’s last opera, La Clemenza de Tito, full of 70s-style togas, gilded mirrors, and the like. Think there’ll be a Liza Minnelli stand-in?
Tags: Chicago Opera Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Collaboraction, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Goodman Theatre, Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, MCA Stage, Northlight Theatre, Red Orchid Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Timeline Theatre, Tymphanic Theatre