Dramas, and comedies, and tragedies. Oh my. For the super-cheap price of $15 or $30, you can nab tickets to over 120 different shows from February 11-21, when ChicagoTheatreWeek.com celebrates the city's stages from Skokie to South Shore. The sheer amount of shows is overwhelming. How to pick when the field is so crowded? Here are our picks for the Top Ten Theatre Week Must-Sees.
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Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
(Loop Theatre District)
Roberto Bolaño's 900+ page epic starts with a quartet of academics trying to ferret out a mysterious German author and then spins across the globe and through a century for a sprawling story of love, murder and literature. Tony-winning director Robert Falls collaborates with Seth Bockley to deliver a five-hour, three-intermission epic.
About Face Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Theatre
(Belmont Avenue Theatre District)
Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins' huge-hearted romance is bursting with razor-sharp wit and characters you'll be crushing on by intermission. Set in Montreal and New York, it follows a tight-knit group of gay men as they navigate a world that - SacreBleu! - allows them to legally wed.
The Last Defender
The House Theatre of Chicago at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division
This isn't a play so much as a 90-minute, interactive game wherein the audience is charged with saving the world (wear sensible shoes). You'll don a jumpsuit when you arrive (can't save the world if you're worried about mussing your outfit) and meet up with 16 other intrepid souls intent on keeping the planet from destruction.
A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells
Tennessee Williams' rarely produced one-act stars two of Chicago's finest leading ladies, Mierka Girten and Jennifer Engstrom as a pair of frenemies on a booze-fueled night of noisy desperation. Set on Christmas Eve in 1948 New Orleans, you can expect brawls and caroling to break out with equal abandon.
Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln
Downers Grove native/LA-based writer Sarah Gubbins has a keen eye and a sharp tongue, both of which have earned her a rep bringing edgy comedy to wildly entertaining explorations of of-the-moment social issues. Here, she offers a two-woman love story brought to the brink of destruction by a houseguest who turns the household upside down.
at the Waldorf
Court Theatre, 5535 E. Ellis
If you love the music of Louis Armstrong, Barry Shabaka Henley's turn as the great Satchmo is a must-see. In Terry Teachout's one-man show, Henley plays the legendary horn player near the end of his life, delivering reminiscence both profound and profane.
Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted
Annie Baker's Pulitzer Prize winner unspools in the kind of run-down movie house where soda-sticky floors and stale popcorn are de rigueur. But for the quartet of employees keeping the place afloat, the dim mundanity of minimum-wage work in a dying business provides a gleaming spotlight on all the messy, awful, wonderful stuff that defines humanity.
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland
For decades, performance/actor artist extraordinaire Molly Brennan has been regaling audiences with her rambunctious, dragon-worthy ferocity and insanely physical form of clowning. Now she's teaming up Malic White, her partner "in love and art" for a show about wrestling the demon of depression with the almighty power of music, specifically the tunes of the titular star.
Broadway In Chicago at The PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe
(Loop Theatre District)
Kenner and Ebb's masterwork illuminates all the gritty in Weimar-Era Berlin, without sacrificing the gloriously tawdry glitz and humor found in the debauched nightspot of the title. The show is a brilliant merger of thoughtless hedonism and encroaching evil - and the score ("Cabaret", "Maybe This Time", "Don't Tell Mama") is sheer, sonic gloriousness.
The Hairy Ape
Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway
You can't beat the ticket price at Oracle: It's free. Always. And that's a don't-miss steal when it comes to director Monty Hall's much-anticipated take on Eugene O'Neill's eviscerating drama about class, self-loathing and the brutal world of stokers toiling below decks on a luxury liner filled with passengers from the One Percent.
Photo credit: Cabaret by Joan Marcus