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Chicago Spotlight: August 2008

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Stef Tovar and Johnny Clark in On An Average Day
(© Tommy Dunn)
August is a slow month for theater in Chicago. We're far too busy enjoying the once-in-a-century spectacle of having both the White Sox and the Cubs in first place heading out of the All-Star break. What's that? You came here for theater, not baseball? Well, perhaps you'll want to check out Chicago's newest professional theater troupe, Route 66 Theatre Company, founded by actor/director Stef Tovar, a longtime ensemble member of the American Theater Company. After several years in Los Angeles, Tovar has returned to the Windy City to establish a company dedicated to telling stories unfolding along America's "Mother Road" (as Steinbeck called it) stretching from Chicago to LA. The debut production is John Kolvenbach's 2002 sibling drama, On An Average Day, presented at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (August 2-September 6). A different American tale opens the same night, also at Victory Gardens, as Hubris Productions presents Harvey Fierstein's contemporary gay urban saga, Torch Song Trilogy (through September 7).

With the campaign season well underway, several theaters are offering plays with political themes. A new troupe that's begun to gain a reputation, Theatre Seven, offers Election Day at Chicago Dramatists (August 9-30); Writers' Theatre in Glencoe revives its substantial hit of several years ago, the darkly comic Nixon's Nixon with favorite local actors William Brown and Larry Yando repeating their turns as Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon (August 19-October 12); and TimeLine Theatre Company launches the new subscription season with the regional premiere of Gore Vidal's 1968 political potboiler, Weekend (August 21-October 12). Meanwhile, Light Opera Works offers Gilbert & Sullivan's delightful comic opera, Iolanthe, which was considered charming political satire in its day. Performances are at Evanston's Cahn Auditorium (August 15-24).

Blocks away, on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University, the American Music Theater Project offers a fully-staged workshop of Dangerous Beauty, a new musical co-authored by Amanda McBroom and featuring local favorite performers Hollis Resnik and Jenny Powers (through August 17). Among other August musicals: Sing Dammit!, a world premiere sketch comedy tuner from Backe Productions at The Cornservatory (August 8-September 12); Andrew Lloyd-Webber's one-woman musical Tell Me On a Sunday, presented at Bailiwick Repertory (August 10-September 7); and another world premiere songfest, Love in the Middle Ages (about romance and passion for the 40-plus crowd), presented by the Village Players in Oak Park (August 21-September 21). But the musical of greatest interest may be Rodgers' and Harts' and George Abbott's The Boys from Syracuse as revised by director/adapter David H. Bell, presented at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace Theatre (August 14-September 28). Bell's revisions include interposing three additional songs and tweaking the book.

Say, how about a play in a swimming pool? Yes, we said in the pool. That would be the always-creative (although sometimes puerile) Neo-Futurists and the world premiere comedy Fake Lake, performed in the pool at Welles Park (August 16-September 19). The setting is the vast, man-made Lake Mead at the West End of the Grand Canyon. Other odds and ends of interest: the excellent Seanachai Theatre offers a play on contemporary post-Troubles Belfast life, Scenes from the Big Picture, by Owen McCafferty, at the city-owned Storefront Theater (August 29-October 5); and the unique Theatre-Hikes plays The Taming of the Shrew amid the glories of the West Suburban Morton Arboretum (July 26-September 28). The daylight, weekends-only performances require the audience to hike through the woods (a gentle, well-guided path of a mile-and-a-half or so) as the scenes of the play unfold.

Last, but hardly least, August 8-24 are the dates for the fourth edition of the Goodman Theatre Latino Theatre Festival, curated by Goodman resident artistic associate Henry Godinez. Companies and productions will be presented from the United States, Mexico, and Spain ranging from a musical adaptation of Garcia Lorca's Blood Wedding entitled Al Son Que Me Toques, Lorca, to puppetry pieces, a major work for children (Esperanza Rising, produced in collaboration with the Chicago Children's Theatre), plus contemporary Latino (and Latina) theater companies such as Culture Clash, Aguijon Theater Company, Teatro Luna, Teatro Vista and the Luna Negra Dance Theater.


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