Lisa Joyce and Cherry Jones in Doubt
(© Craig Schwartz)
Lisa Joyce and Cherry Jones in Doubt
(© Craig Schwartz)
The month of sugarplums and Scrooge is behind us and Chicago returns to its focus on serious theater. January kicks off with writer and performance artist Karen Finley in her one-person shows, The Dreams of Laura Bush and The Passion of Terri Shiavo, at Bailiwick Repertory (January 3-7). Meanwhile, another powerful female performer, Tony Award winner Cherry Jones headlines the national tour of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt at the LaSalle Bank Theatre (January 9-28).

Over on Navy Pier, they'll be singing up a storm as Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents a musical version of the classic adventure tale, The Three Musketeers by Peter Raby (book), George Stiles (music) and Paul Leigh (lyrics), and directed by David H. Bell (January 3-February 18). The show isn't actually new, but it has been heavily reworked for this production.

One of Chicago's most reliable companies, About Face Theatre unveils Gary Griffin's revival of Emily Mann's Execution of Justice (Victory Gardens Greenhouse, January 20-February 18), about the 1978 political assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and gay Supervisor Harvey Milk. The murders, and the ensuing miscarriage of justice in the trial of confessed killer Dan White, sparked violence in the streets of San Francisco and a sea change in American political attitudes towards its GLBT citizens.

The Goodman Theatre and Congo Square Theatre Company join forces (as they have several times before) to pay homage to the late August Wilson, who had long associations with both companies. The Goodman will present the regional premiere of Radio Golf, the last of Wilson's 10 plays on the African-American experience in the 20th Century, directed by Kenny Leon (January 23-February 18). A week later, the Goodman will present the Congo Square production of Wilson's mystical Joe Turner's Come and Gone, set in the decade of World War I (January 29-February 18).

Long-established yet perpetually small, the Off-Loop Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company mounts Edward Bond's Saved (January 14-February 25), which hasn't been seen here in years. This dark social satire about disaffected, emotionally brutalized London youth of the 1960s sparked a storm of outrage because of a scene in which young toughs stone a baby to death in its pram. Another long-absent 1960's British play also shows up this month, Peter Barnes' The Ruling Class (Storefront Theater, January 19-February 18), which concerns a group of spoiled and effete aristocrats squabbling over an estate and hiding titillating sexual secrets.

January is also full of world premieres including Impossible Cities: A Utopian Experiment (Walkabout Theatre at the Peter Jones Gallery, January 5-27), which examines the efforts of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, biosphere guru Paolo Solari, the Amana Colonies and others to create perfect communities. The House Theatre of Chicago offers another of its action-packed offerings, The Sparrow, at The Viaduct (January 13-February 28). The town's hottest playwright, Bret Neveu, sees his newest play, Harmless, premiered at Timeline Theatre Company (January 19-March 4). And the Prop Theatre Group mounts Sounds of Silents (January 20-March 25) by Paul Peditto, which looks at the glory days of silent filmmaking in Chicago.

Musical lovers have two appealing options: Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved The King and I at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace (January 4-March 4) and Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Assassins at Porchlight Music Theatre (January 28-March 18).

Finally, January offers competing versions of Homer's tale of the adventures of Ulysses, both of which are suitable for younger audiences. A highly visual adult version of The Odyssey by adaptor/director Mary Zimmerman has been cut down to family length and size by Lookingglass Theatre Company, where it's performed by an ensemble of adolescent actors (January 21-March 28), while Vittum Theatre offers The Search for Odysseus (January 27-February 18).