Karla Beard and Jayson Brooks
in Ragtime
(© Michael Brosilow)
Karla Beard and Jayson Brooks
in Ragtime
(© Michael Brosilow)
June is lacking the kind of big events that usually mark this theater-centric town, but there are still plenty of shows worth seeing. Take Porchlight Music Theatre's Ragtime, the hit musical by Terrence McNally (book), Stephen Flaherty (music), and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), based on E. L. Doctorow's epic but pithy novel about early 20th-century America. Having recently completed its initial six-week run at the 150-seat Theatre Building Chicago, the acclaimed show begins an open run June 9 at the 461-seat Apollo Theater Center.

The month is bracketed by the works of Bertolt Brecht. The highly-regarded Steep Theatre Company presents The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at its little Mid-North Side storefront playhouse (through July 7), while at month's end, Big Picture Group offers The Good Person of Setzuan at the Athenaeum (June 30-July 29).

Elsewhere around town, there's a radical modern take on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, presented in public parks by GroundUp Theatre Company (June 23-August 5); Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, presented in air conditioned bliss by Circle Theatre Company (June 27-August 5); Bohemian Theatre Ensemble's production of the jazzy, tough-edged musical The Life, about Times Square hookers and hustlers, at Theatre Building Chicago (June 2-July 15), and Light Opera Works' take on Cole Porter's classic tuner, Kiss Me, Kate, with a 26-piece orchestra, presented in the Cahn Auditorium on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University (June 2-10).

Also on the musical front, Black Ensemble Theater opens Those Sensuous Seductive '70's (beginning June 3), another in its patented line of musical revues drawing on African-American rock, R&B and soul music, while the Drury Lane Theatre in West Suburban Oakbrook Terrace offers the rarely-seen 1960's Charles Strouse-Lee Adams tuner, It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman! (June 7-July 29).

Among notable new work this month is Lunatic(a)s, a compilation of monologues by the always-clever writers/performers of Teatro Luna, a collective of Latin women, at Chicago Dramatists (June 7-July 15), and Claudia Allen's I Sailed with Magellan, based on the novel by Chicago writer Stuart Dybek, at Victory Gardens Theater (June 18-July 15).

Meanwhile, the tiny but potent Gift Theatre offers the dark Irish comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane at its storefront theater in the Jefferson Park neighborhood (June 18-July 29), and Bailiwick Repertory launches its annual summertime Pride Series with the British troupe Shamelessboyz in Dangerous, a gay version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (June 19-July 1).

Finally -- and suitable for audiences of all ages -- the Chinese acrobats and aerialists of Cirque Shanghai return for the season to the Pepsi Skyline Stage at Navy Pier in a new, family-friendly show, Bai Xi (June 6-September 3).