Timothy Edward Kane plays the title role
in Titus Andronicus
(© Michael Brosilow)
Timothy Edward Kane plays the title role
in Titus Andronicus
(© Michael Brosilow)
January brings plummeting temperatures to Chicago and a surprisingly large selection of classical theater. George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, staged by Canada's Shaw Festival, comes to Chicago Shakespeare Theater (January 8-20); City Lit Theatre offers Shakespeare's sparkling comedy Twelfth Night (January 12-February 3); Court Theatre present Shakespeare's bloody revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus, which director Charles Newell is staging in modern dress (January 16-February 10); and August Strindberg's Miss Julie opens at The Hypocrites, the highly-regarded small Off-Loop theater guided by wunderkind director Sean Graney (January 20-March 2).

Around and about these certified classics are several works hovering on the classical fringe. ShawChicago makes a rare excursion outside the Shavian repertory with The Cassilis Engagement, a 1907 comedy-of-manners by St. John Hankin (at the Ruth Page Center, January 12-February 2), while Lookingglass Theatre's Hephaestus, A Greek Mythology Circus Tale uses timeless circus arts from tumbling to flying to tell the story of the god of the forge (January 16-February 24).

Issue-related dramatic fare cuts a wide swath through the month, beginning with Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, presented by Gray Zelda Theatre Company at Stage Left (January 3-February 2). Chicago Dramatists presents the world premiere of Bill Jepsen' Cadillac (January 17-February 24), in which ethics and morality debates erupt in a used car lot. Also on tap are the area premiere of White People, a contemporary look at racism, at Gift Theatre (January 3-February 16); Profiles' revised version of Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes, another look at racism and mixed marriage (January 17-March 2); Shattered Globe's revival of the powerful Rod Serling drama, Requiem for a Heavyweight, at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (January 11-March 8); and Raven Theatre's regional premiere of Columbinus (January 24-March 15), a fictional look by the United States Theatre Project of conditions and attitudes that might lead to such violent events as the Columbine shootings of several years ago.

Other contemporary playwrights of note also are on the boards. Bailiwick Repertory offers Theresa Rebeck's Sunday on the Rocks as part of its Second Sex Series (January 7-March 10); Halcyon Theatre Company stages Jose Rivera's poetic fantasy Cloud Tectonics at the Peter Jones Gallery (January 12-February 17); Circle Theatre presents the Midwest premiere of Julia Jordan's Boy (January 11-February 24); About Face Theatre serves up the regional premiere of Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed, about an in-the-closet gay movie star who falls for a hustler with a heart of gold, at the Hoover-Leppen Theatre (January 9-February 17).

Meanwhile, the Goodman Theatre presents Conor McPherson's slightly supernatural drama Shining City (January 12-February 17); Red Orchid Theatre produces John Clancy's Fatboy, a modern take on Ubu Roi (January 21-March 2); and TimeLine Theatre Company stages Dolly West's Kitchen by Frank McGuiness (January 24-March 22). Lastly, Teatro Luna transfers its well-reviewed Machos to a brand-new venue, the 16th Street Theatre in Berwyn (January 25-March 17).

Musical lovers have slim pickings this month. Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace offers The Goodbye Girl (January 3-March 2), directed by Gary Griffin. Bohemian Theatre Ensemble reopens its early-season hit, Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown, at Theatre Building Chicago (January 17-February 10), and the tiny Off-Loop Signal Ensemble presents its first musical, the patriotic 1776, at Chopin Theatre (January 25-March 1).

Finally, Chicago always has many offerings for kids and families, including A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, written by Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and adapted for the stage by Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Nilo Cruz, presented by Chicago Playworks of the DePaul University Theatre School at the downtown Merle Reskin Theatre (January 12-March 4), and Winnetka Theatre's musical version of The Little Mermaid by esteemed choreographer and director Marc Robin at the Winnetka Community House (January 19-February 3).