So many shows have opened in Chicago over the last three weeks, it's tough to keep them all straight. And he who hesitates can be lost. So let me use the space this week to sort out what you should be seeing right now. Let me say at the top that the January openings produced an uncommonly large amount of excellent theater — far more than was produced this past fall.
If you're one of the many readers who follow very challenging new plays, two shows should be at the top of your list. One is the Court Theatre's "Invisible Man," the first dramatic adaptation of the
By contrast, Ayad Akhtar's "Disgraced," another play about race in America, this time at American Theater, is only 90 minutes long. But this brand-new work is a gutsy and incendiary piece of writing and a first look at a Pakistani-American author about whom we will be hearing a great deal more, trust me. Don't assume this is one of those dull, can't-we-all-just-get-along-in-America plays. It's very much the opposite. Like
"Invisble Man" cannot be extended because of the coming "Angels in America" at Court. "Disgraced" is considering an extension of up to three weeks.
Two big Chicago theaters have productions of recent Broadway hits: Mamet's "Race" at the
Of the two plays, "Time Stands Still," which is about the moral choices faced by journalists in war zones, is the better piece of writing, and I have enormous respect for
Both shows can be consumed after a hard day's work (not really the case with "Invisible Man"), and both will stimulate date-night conversation. In the case of "Race," you'll be in the bar in 90 minutes with much to discuss. "Time Stands Still," which is a mature and wise play everyone will respect, is the less risky choice for a group. "Race" has its detractors — plenty of my correspondents among them. But it's being talked about everywhere. Why miss out on that?
"Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting," at the Lookingglass Theatre, has never been in New York. But this piece about baseball great
One other Broadway play, "Enron," also recently had its Chicago premiere, this one at TimeLine Theatre, where it is just as shrill and unsatisfying as it was in New York.
And what if you put a premium on intimacy and affordable prices? Here are two very different shows not to miss. The first is "Death and
Steep Theatre's "Love and Money" is a very different kind of experience, a sad story of how economic anxiety can cripple relationships and marriages. I found the Steep show depressing, but I keep thinking about the wisdom and pain of Dennis Kelly's writing and how it motivated this group of actors to do the best work I've ever seen them do together. "Love and Money" now is playing through March 10.
If you're looking for a musical, the one to see currently is "Gypsy" at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, which features, in Klea Blackhurst, a knock-'em-dead Mama Rose. "A Chorus Line" at the Paramount in Aurora and "Legally Blonde" at the Marriott in Lincolnshire are capable productions, mostly for die-hard fans of those pieces. But Blackhurst's performance makes for a worth-the-drive show.