School is winding down and the days are stretching out, which is the perfect time for fun at the old ballpark, beach, street fair, and all the other seasonal frolics that Chicagoans dream about during the dreary winter months. But don't forget that theater is a round-the-calendar enterprise. Whether you're looking for musicals, family shows, outdoor classics, or storefront gems, the list below should get you started.
BIG SPLASHES AND LONG RUNS
Chicago-bred actor and playwright Paul Oakley Stovall brings it home with this comedic
No, it's not the return of the Weston girls from "August: Osage County." Tracy Letts tackles Chekhov's trio of unhappy siblings in this new adaptation, directed by Anna Shapiro.
For its 10th anniversary,
They've been around so long that they're easy to overlook, but the Men in Blue (which now sometimes includes women underneath the indigo latex) offer up a fun, loud, and — if you're in one of the front rows, messy — show that is one of those rare events perfect for families, tourists, and date nights. Briar Street Theatre; open run
"Million Dollar Quartet"
A jukebox musical with an intimate edge, this portrait of the night that
Jumping forward in time from the Sun Records heyday (and arguably backward in taste), this touring production of the show that celebrates All Things Hair-Metal settles in for a summer sojourn off Boul Mich, rather than Sunset Strip. Broadway Playhouse; June 5-Aug. 5
"A Steady Rain"
Keith Huff's break-out hit about the disintegrating lives of two Chicago cops, first produced by Chicago Dramatists, went to Broadway, where plucky regular-guy unknowns named
House Theatre of Chicago's smash hit returns from a short run in Florida to once again mesmerize audiences, up close. Chopin Theatre; July 7-Aug. 17
"Late Nite Catechism"
It won't absolve you of your obligations to attend Mass, but Catholics and "publics" alike have enjoyed Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's interactive and tongue-in-slightly-irreverent-cheek show about parochial education for almost twenty years. Royal George Theater; open run
"Who Do We Think We Are?"
Second City's 100th revue tackles the frustrations and absurdities of being an American in an election year. Second City; open run
"Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon"
Can't make it to "Dralion?" Cirque Shanghai's return engagement also features the finest in Chinese circus artists, including motorcycle daredevils "Imperial Thunder."
"Disney's Beauty and the Beast"
Rachel Rockwell directs the stage version of the Disney musical.
"Pinkalicious: the Musical"
You are what you eat, as the heroine of this Emerald City Theatre show (based on the book by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann) finds out after consuming too many pink cupcakes. Broadway Playhouse; through Aug. 5
"Inherit the Wind"
Oak Park Festival Theatre kicks off its outdoor season with
"The Hound of the Baskervilles"
A couple of local outdoor gems stand in for the gloomy moors in F. Andrew Leslie's version of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic, directed by Bradley Baker for Theatre-Hikes. North Park Village Nature Center, June 23-24. Also
"The Merchant of Venice"
First Folio tackles one of Shakespeare's most troubling "problem plays." In addition to Alison C. Vesely's production on their outdoor stage, the company also offers the National Yiddish Theatre of New York's "Shylock and His Daughter" by Maurice Schwartz, running as a staged reading with the same cast as "Merchant" on Thursday evenings. Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook; July 11-Aug. 19
Another famous Shakespearean villain comes alive in Belinda Bremner's Oak Park Festival staging. Austin Gardens; July 19-Aug. 25
"The Wind in the Willows"
Theatre-Hikes stages an adaptation of
The unforgettable voice — and tragic life — behind "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Sexual Healing" forms the subject for Jackie Taylor's latest bio-musical. Black Ensemble Theater; through July 29
Philip LaZebnik and Kingsley Day's "not-very-historically-accurate" musical about booming Chicago right before the Great Fire of 1871 gets a world premiere under Sheldon Patinkin's direction. City Lit Theater; May 29-June 24
"Eastland: A New Musical"
This might not be the show to see before you take out-of-towners on the Chicago Architecture Foundation's river tour. Andrew White's script, featuring a score by Ben Sussman and Andre Pluess, tackles the titular 1915 tragedy, in which 844 people lost their lives when their boat tipped over in the Chicago River. Lookingglass Theatre; June 6-July 29
"Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein"
Theo Ubique's hit revue takes a trip to the suburbs for Fox Valley Repertory's Summer Theater Fest. Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles; May 31-July 22
That "one brief shining moment" when Arthur and Guenevere held court in medieval Britain, as romanticized by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, takes the stage at Light Opera Works, featuring a full orchestra and Nick Sandys and Jennie Sophia as the married monarchs. Cahn Auditorium, Evanston; June 1-10
Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's Americana-laced musical draws upon the real story of Collins, a Kentucky spelunker whose entrapment underground provided the fodder for an early media feeding frenzy. Peter Marston Sullivan directs for Bohemian Theatre Ensemble. Theater Wit; June 15-July 15
After you've seen "The Avengers" for the umpteenth time, you might want a superhero spectacle a bit more grounded in real life. Rising musical writers Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler created this story of a young artist whose dad, a comic-book shop owner, encourages him to take some leaps of faith over his doubts.
"The 39 Steps"
It's Hitchcock gone haywire in Patrick Barlow's goof of the 1935 thriller by the master of suspense. Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace; July 5-Aug. 26
Oracle Productions (whose performances are always free) opens
More nightmares, courtesy of the Right Brain Project's rare remounting of
Collaboraction's annual homage to short (seven-minute) plays shakes it up this year by incorporating a few longer pieces. Flat Iron Arts Building; June 7-July 15
Tellin' Tales Theatre unveils a line-up of hellish, yet hilarious, vacation stories. Prop Thtr; June 8-17
"The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me"
Pride Films and Plays celebrates Pride Month with a 20th-anniversary production of David Drake's solo about one gay man's coming of age in America. Chad Ryan stars. Luna Central; June 20-July 1
"Hit the Wall"
Ike Holter's rock retelling of the Stonewall riots, which became a smash hit for the Inconvenience at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep earlier this year, gets a short remount through Theater on the Lake. Theater on the Lake; July 25-29
"Exit, Pursued by a Bear"
Theatre Seven of Chicago, recipient of this year's Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theater Award, presents the local premiere of Lauren Gunderson's black
"My First Time"
Based on a website dedicated to true tales of sexual initiation, this show became an off-Broadway hit. It makes its local bow with
"Salt of the Earth"
John Godber's drama about a Yorkshire coal-mining family, presented by Ka-Tet Theatre Company. City Lit Theater; July 13-Aug. 11
Dead Writers Theatre Collective makes its inaugural bow with
A soldier faces charges of war crimes in Colleen Wagner's morally complex drama, presented by Idle Muse Theatre Company. Side Project Theater; July 26-Aug. 26