There are a lot of famous names out and about this summer: Sting,
, just to name a few. The reason is partly a few Broadway tryouts and partly a few more new Chicago productions that seemed designed to attract out-of-town producers. But the theater season will, as always, mostly feature the work of the city's home-based theatrical professionals.
I've picked the 10 shows that — on paper, at least — excite me the most. They're a diverse array of high-profile attractions, surely to be joined by summer sleepers you'll be reading more about as the sun warms our spirits.
"The Last Ship": The latest in Chicago's string of pre-Broadway tryouts, this high-profile new musical was conceived and scored by rock musician Sting. It's both a triangular love story and a portrait of a struggling shipbuilding community in North East England, whence the composer came. The creative team includes writer John Logan, choreographer Steven Hoggett and director Joe Mantello. Broadway was not kind to serious new musicals this season, and "Last Ship" likely will face some perils. But Sting is expected to be in Chicago as the show gestates; this project clearly matters to him. June 10 to July 13,
"This Is Our Youth": Although technically a
"Brigadoon": Replete with the songs "Almost Like Being in Love," "The Heather on the Hill" and "Waitin' for my Dearie," this 1947 musical comedy by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe very much belongs in the great-score-but-dated-book category. The big summer production at the
"The Qualms": Even before
"Death and the Maiden": Heads turned when Victory Gardens artistic director Chay Yew announced that TV and movie actress Oh ("Grey's Anatomy") would top the cast of his new production of the 1991 play by Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman. An intense political thriller, "Death and the Maiden" is about the experiences of a former political prisoner whose tormented past returns to haunt her. Oh will play the role originated on Broadway by
"Ask Aunt Susan": This new piece by the experimental theater-maker Seth Bockley is based on Nathanael West's 1933 novel "Miss Lonelyhearts," wherein a male newspaper columnist starts an advice column as a joke but becomes burdened by his readers' myriad problems. Bockley has updated the Depression-era story for the modern era, imaging a 20-something computer coder who comes up with a way to game Yelp, an adventure that does not turn out as he expected. Henry Wishcamper directs a cast of five for the world premiere of a piece that was developed at the Goodman Theatre. Through June 22, Goodman's Owen Theatre; goodmantheatre.org
"All Our Tragic": Sean Graney, the founder of The Hypocrites, has worked for years on the Chicago fringe but his career has blown up nationally in recent months. One of his interests long has been classical tragedy, as when he combined seven Sophocles tragedies into "These Seven Sicknesses." Graney's latest effort pushes the envelope further, creating a 12-hour performance from all of the Greek tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. It's possible to experience "All Our Tragic" in one marathon sitting or over several nights of theater. Aug. 2 to Oct. 5, Hypocrites at the Den Theatre; the-hypocrites.com
"Hamlet": The new traveling production of the incomparable tragedy of the moody Dane was created by Shakespeare's Globe in London and is on a two-year tour that aims to visit every country in the world. Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst are the directors of a British production generally viewed as a fast-paced, pared-down, populist affair, performed by a cast of eight and coming in at well under three hours. July 28-30, Shakespeare's Globe in Chicago Shakespeare's Courtyard Theater on