William Peterson in Dublin Carol
(© T. Charles Erickson)
William Peterson in Dublin Carol
(© T. Charles Erickson)
It's astonishing that some 50 shows will open in Chicago in November, even with a break over the long Thanksgiving Weekend. Some of this month's more notable entries include Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol, at Steppenwolf with William Petersen in the cast (November 15-December 28); Eclipse Ensemble's presentation of Lillian Hellmann's The Autumn Garden at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse (November 16-December 21); and Next Theatre in Evanston's staging of Lisa Kron's Well, which showcases two splendid performers, MaryAnn Thebus and Lia Mortenson (November 17-December 14).

But there are a number of things happening in the smaller and less well-known theaters of Chicago's Off-Loop and Off-off-Loop. This is where young artists labor, stretching their talents, trying out new ideas, and nurturing the skill and imagination that allows Chicago Theater to re-energize itself every few seasons. Collaboraction offers a world premiere adaptation of Jon, a short story by award-winning British author George Saunders, presented at Building Stage (November 3-December14) in Chicago's trendy River West district. Redtwist Theatre unveils its newly-upgraded storefront theatre in the Edgewater neighborhood with Shadowlands, the biographical drama about C. S. Lewis (November 3-30). The Off-off-Loop La Costa Theatre Company introduces The Devil's Daughter, a world premiere about a magician and, well, Satan's little girl (November 6-December 14). With a spacious loft-style second floor playhouse and gallery, La Costa now is the third theater troupe to cluster in a light industrial neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side that just a few years ago was a cultural terra incognita.

About a mile south of The Loop, the Pavement Group offers the Chicago premiere of Ken Weitzman's drama, Arrangements, staged at the EP Theatre (November 7-30) in the old Pilsen neighborhood (originally German, then Latino and now kinda-artsy). Found Objects Theatre in conjunction with the long-established avant-gardist Curious Theatre Branch, presents the world premiere of Mark Chrisler's An Increasingly Uncordial Invitation at St. Paul's Church (November 6-December 13). Another world premiere, Haram Iran by Jay Paul Deratany, has the potential to be an important statement play, being a thinly fictionalized drama about the arrest, trial and execution in Iran of two 15 year old boys for homosexual acts; a case that received global attention. The work is presented by Permoveo Productions at the Athenaeum (November 8-December 7).

Trap Door Theatre in Bucktown presents The Unconquered (November 13-December 19), a 2007 comedy by British playwright Torben Betts. Wildclaw Theatre Company offers The Dreams in the Witch House at the Athenaeum (November 15-December 21). It's adapted from an H. P. Lovecraft story so it would have been a natural for Halloween, but the mission of Wildclaw is to present horror and fantasy theater year-round. Working out of the two-playhouse Chopin Theatre, the Signal Ensemble offers John Guare's familiar Six Degrees of Separation in the smaller downstairs space (November 17-December 20) while the always-imaginatively visual TUTA (The Utopian Theatre Asylum) stages its first Shakespeare production, Romeo and Juliet, in Chopin's larger upstairs space (November 20-December 21). Another world premiere, Offsprung by Bridget Fallen, is a dysfunctional family reunion comedy presented by Rubicon Theatre Project at Stage Left (November 20-December 20).

A few shows at better-established Off-Loop troupes are: Thomas Gibbons' A House With No Walls at TimeLine (November 1-December 21); Frank McGuiness' Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at the Piven Theatre in Evanston (November 1-December 7); and Look Homeward Angel, a stage adaptation of the Thomas Wolfe novel, at the Artistic Home (November 9-21).

There also are several musicals of note, beginning with Million Dollar Quartet, which has moved from a short run at the Goodman Theatre to the Apollo Theater (through January 1). A juke box musical of sorts, it's the (true) story of a legendary jam session at Nashville's Sun Records that brought together the then-young Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis! Tomorrow Morning, the 2006 London musical with book, music and lyrics by Laurence Mark Wythe, is at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse (November 9-December 7). Also of special note is a rare production of Jule Styne's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, at Circle Theatre (November 19-February 1) and the Chicago premiere of the extraordinary Grey Gardens, snagged by Northlight Theatre (November 20-December 28) and featuring Hollis Resnik, Ann Whitney, and Tempe Thomas in the lead roles.

As always, there are a few shows that are unique in one way or another, such as an exceedingly rare staging of The Marriage of Figaro -- the original Beaumarchais play and not the Mozart opera -- by Remy Bumppo at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (November 13-January 4). But the show of the month is The Adventures of Captain Marbles and His Acting Squad, offered by Provision Theatre and the Department of Cultural Affairs at the Storefront Theater (November 2-December 14). This family theater show began in the 1960's, became a continuing series of episodes, and eventually landed at David Mamet's St. Nicholas Theatre Company where composer Alaric Jans and actor William H. Macy (a St. Nick co-founder) were enlisted as co-authors. Now Jans, Macy, and third co-author David Kvacs have updated Captain Marbles and his familiar sidekicks, Ballerina and Astronaut. The show already is set for an Off-Broadway production next year.