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Chicago Spotlight: August 2009

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Christy Altomare and Jake Epstein in Spring Awakening
(© Joan Marcus)
August launches with triple classics of sorts. Broadway In Chicago offers Spring Awakening, the Tony Award-winning rock musical version of Frank Wedekind's 1891 German play, at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (August 4-16). The touring cast is currently headed by Degrassi: The Next Generation star Jake Epstein. Circle Theatre in Forest Park offers Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (through October 4) in what the troupe is calling "a voyeuristic production that highlights the original intentions of the playwright." Then, Bare-Boned Theatre presents The Hecubae, a world premiere by Rebekah Walendzak and Jeffrey Bouthiette inspired by Euripides' Greek tragedy but set in a modern refugee camp, at the Raven Theatre (August 7-30).

The month continues with Albee's lesser-seen Ballad of the Sad Café, presented by Signal Ensemble at Chopin Theatre (August 9-September 12), opening Signal's seventh season. It will be joined later in the month by several other plays in the "modern classics" category, including Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, presented by Caffeine Theatre at the Storefront Theater (August 21-September 27) and Arthur Miller's All My Sons, offered by TimeLine Theatre at the Greenhouse Theatre Center (August 27-October 4). As August continues, Rasaka Theatre Company -- a troupe of South Asian artists -- teams with the Premiere Theatre Company to offer Culture/Clash, three one-act plays about the South Asian diaspora, at Straw Dog Theatre (August 13-September 6). Then, Ruckus Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Heist Play, by Mitch Vermeersch, at the side project (August 16-26).

Those who want a musical that's fresh but a little familiar may enjoy the Chicago premiere of High Fidelity, the recent Broadway flop based on the successful film. Because the show wasn't successful enough in New York to launch a national tour, the local rights were snapped up by a new theatre company (but peopled by respected veterans), Route 66. The tuner will be given an environmental production at Piper's Alley (August 7-October 10), in a space that has housed Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding for 16 years. Producers Anthony and Joey Tomaska were so excited by Route 66's plans that they've put Wedding on a three-month hiatus (and possibly longer), to accommodate it. Fans of tuners from Broadway's Golden Age will appreciate My Fair Lady, in one of Light Opera Works' always-lavish productions with full orchestra, presented at Cahn Auditorium on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University (August 15-30). Also, Cabaret is offered at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace (August 13-October 11). On the other hand, those who prefer unknown musicals may enjoy Alas! Alack! Zorro Is Back!, an original musical melodrama presented by Quest Ensemble at The Blue Theatre (August 14-September 27).

For something completely different, how about a young hero on a binge who encounters "the brain-dead zombies and rude cell phone users of New York." Such is the rudimentary premise of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy (A Penny Dreadful), offered Monday nights only at Gorilla Tango Theatre (August 3-24). The late Charles Ludlam made much of the old penny-dreadful form and perhaps the Gorilla Tango folk will do so, too.

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