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Chicago Spotlight: February 2011

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John Leguizamo
(© Tristan Fuge)
February offers at least three attractions one might call unique. The first is John Leguizamo in an "unplugged" version of his new Broadway-bound solo show, Ghetto Klown, at the Royal George Theatre, with the engagement billed, appropriately enough, as John Leguizamo Warms Up (February 1-12). The second is the month-long stand by the Belarus Free Theatre, quite possibly seeking political asylum in the United States in response to physical threats and harassment by the Belarus government. Following the troupe's success at New York's Under the Radar Festival, they are bringing Being Harold Pinter to several Chicago venues (through February 27). The third is the world premiere of an outer space musical, Starship, written and produced by the internet sensation StarKid Productions and featuring songs by Glee star Darren Criss. Starship -- about a lonely insect alien in a distant galaxy -- will play two weeks only at the Hoover-Leppen Theatre (Febrary 11-23) during which time it will be recorded in HD for use on the internet and beyond.

Playwright Brett Neveu will have two world premieres running at the same time with Odradek from the House Theatre of Chicago (at the Chopin Theatre through February 26) and Do The Hustle -- about father and son con artists -- at Writers' Theatre (through March 20), directed by the estimable William Brown. Playwright Laura Jacqmin also does the double deed with the world premiere of Dead Pile, presented by XIII Point at Stage 773 (February 4-27), and the restaging of her 2010 success, Dental Society Mid-Winter Meeting, at the 16th Street Theatre (February 24-March 26). Neveu and Jacqmin are resident playwrights at Chicago Dramatists where much of their work has been developed. Chicago Dramatists itself presents the world premiere of Aline Lathrop's Bordello (through March 6), a behind-the-curtains look at a legal Nevada brothel.

Other February world premieres include the comedic Laika Dog in Space at the Neo-Futurists (February 3-March 12), combining music, puppets, dance, art and borscht; also Dan LeFranc's The Big Meal at American Theater Company (February 7-March 6), staged by a master of physical action, Dexter Bullard; and Thomas Bradshaw's gay-themed Mary, commissioned and presented by the Goodman Theatre (February 5-March 6).

Classics old and new are represented in February by Noel Coward's stylish comedy of manners, Blithe Spirit at First Folio Theatre (February 2-March 6), starring svelte Nick Sandys as a man beshrewed by two wives, one of them a ghost; also Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, staged by Signal Ensemble Theatre (February 12-March 19); then Shaw's Arms and the Man, part of the 30th anniversary season of St. Sebastian Players (February 18-March 13); and Peter Shaffer's Sleuth, with popular actors Larry Yando and Lance Baker, at Theatre at the Center (February 17-March 20); and lastly, Carlo Goldoni's farce, Servant of Two Masters, presented by Piccolo Theatre (February 18-April 9).

The month's big musical question is, will a reworked Working work? Stephen Schwartz has refashioned the 1970's musical, based on the Studs Terkel book, which begins previews February 15 at the Broadway Playhouse, the intimate venue in Chicago's Water Tower Place. Other musicals include the ballroom dancing spectacular Burn the Floor at the Bank of America Theatre (through February 13); a visit by the new production of Les Miserables at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (through February 27); the Beatles tribute show Rain, at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (February 8-13); and the first local revival in a very, very long time of Guys and Dolls, at the Marriott Theatre (through March 27), and starring three members of the Mueller clan, Chicago's largest family acting gang. Daughters Jessie and Abby play Miss Adelaide and Sarah Brown respectively, and dad Roger Mueller plays kindly old Arvide Abernathy.

Finally, Steppenwolf Theatre presents its 2011 Garage Repertory (February 12-April 24, in the Reskin Garage Theatre), a 10-week rotation of productions by three smaller but distinguished Off-Loop theater companies. The plays are: Jose Rivera's Sonnets from an Old Century, presented by Urban Theatre Company; a new play by Emily Schwartz, The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen, offered by the Strange Tree Group; and Elizabeth Meriwether's Heddatron, presented by Sideshow Theatre Company in association with various Chicago robotics experts.

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