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Chicago Spotlight: April 2008

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A scene from Old Town
After a thoroughly miserable Chicago winter, we're ready for the flowers that bloom in the spring -- including theatrical blossoms in a busy month. Musical productions include Arthur Kopit, Maury Yeston, and Mario Fratti's Nine, based on the Fellini film 8 ½, presented by Porchlight Music Theatre at Theatre Building Chicago (April 6-May 18), and the world premiere of Old Town at Strawdog Theatre Company (April 27-May 31). This tuner about Chicago politics has a book by hot playwright Brett Neveu and music and lyrics by Mikhail Fiksal.

Knute Rockne, All-American, about the legendary Notre Dame football coach (Theatre at the Center, April 10-May 11), makes its world premiere with songs by Michael Mahler, a whiz kid composer/actor out of Northwestern University, and lyrics and direction by veteran David H. Bell. TimeLine Theater remounts its huge hit from last year, Fiorello!, with last year's cast intact (April 18-June 15).

Meanwhile, Chicago Opera Theater presents an innovative Don Giovanni, at the Harris Theater (April 30-May 11), and Mark Nadler tries out his New York-bound one-man show, Russian on the Side, at the Royal George Theatre (April 30-June 15). Nadler's musical memoir of Broadway features stories and songs by Broadway greats beginning with the Gershwins. And Broadway In Chicago brings two touring Tony Award-winners to the Cadillac Palace Theatre Downtown, The Drowsy Chaperone (April 2-13) and Sweeney Todd (April 23-May 4).

Among April world premiere plays are Joel Drake Johnson's family drama, Four Places, at Victory Gardens Theater (April 7-May 4), and Barbara Lhota's stage combat drama Los Desaparecidos by Babes With Blades at the Raven Theatre (April 7-May 11).

On the lighter side, Italian commedia dell'arte master Antonio Fava brings the classical physical comedy Lust, Lies and Marriage to Piccolo Theatre (April 4-May 10) while The Second City opens its 95th mainstage improvisational revue, No Country for Old White Men (from April 13). Also, Hell in a Handbag Productions offers up Charles Busch's Die! Mommie, Die! at Bailiwick Repertory (April 21-June 1). Mr. Busch's opus about a dysfunctional family will offer up pretty sons, ugly daughters, and a mother who resembles Joan Crawford.

Chicago's very esoteric Theatre Oobleck celebrates its 20th anniversary by remounting a topical hit from last year, The Strangerer (Chopin Theatre, April 4-May 11), in which author Mickle Maher channels the first Bush-Kerry presidential debate via Albert Camus (author of the novel, The Stranger). In satire at its best, Bush and Kerry debate on the morality of killing moderator Jim Lehrer. Then, Live Wire Theatre takes what it calls a darkly comedic look at our favorite current war in the world premiere, Soldiers: The Desert Stand, at the Side Project (April 10-May 4).

April is surprisingly devoid of the classics, represented only by Shaw's You Never Can Tell at the Village Players (April 6-27), Barrie's What Every Woman Knows by ShawChicago at the Chicago Cultural Center (April 13-May 3) and Macbeth by Greasy Joan & Company at the Athenaeum (April 17-May 25). Some also may count Thornton Wilder's Our Town, staged by The Hypocrites at Chopin Theatre (April 27-June 8) with David Cromer directing and playing the Stage Manager, and Martin Sherman's stage adaptation of A Passage to India, E. M. Forster's novel of British Imperialism, staged by Vitalist Theatre and the Premiere Theatre at Theatre Building Chicago (April 8-May 18).

The most singular show of the month, and one with possibilities for astonishment and joy, may be the world premiere adaptation of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, presented by Lookingglass Theatre (April 16-June 1). The Lookingglass crew are powerful storytellers who generally incorporate circus skills into their imaginative physical stagings.

Finally, one of Chicago's legendary theater names, the Organic Theater Company, offers six shows in true rotating repertory, with works from Japan, the United States, England and France representing authors as varied as Mark Twain, Herman Melville and Eugene Ionesco. New to the repertory this year are Secret Agent (adapted from Joseph Conrad) and Swiss author Friederich Durrenmatt's Play Strindberg. All performances are at La Costa Theatre (April 18-May 11).

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