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Chicago Spotlight: January 2009

Going Wild

Laura Scheinbaum in The Wild Duck
Courtesy of MCA)
A month of world premieres help to ring in the New Year. Court Theatre and the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MCA) present a new translation and modernized adaptation of Ibsen's The Wild Duck, fashioned by Richard Nelson (January 15- February 15). If you can say Yoni Ki Baat you've said a mouthful, only it might be a racy mouthful if you know Hindi, in which "yoni" means vagina. Using Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues as a model, this series of monologues, music and dance pieces explore female sexuality in the desi (South Asian) culture (Strawdog Theatre, through February 1). Post-Christmas Spectacular 1976, a variety show of sorts, is presented by Brain Surgeon Theatre at Trap Door (January 9-25), while Chay Yew directs Po Boy Tango by Kenneth Lin at Northlight Theatre (January 14-February 15); the play combines a Chinese banquet with soul food as a Taiwanese immigrant and his African-American gal pal try to recreate his mother's home cooking.

Chicago Dramatists debuts How I Became an Interesting Person by playwright-in-resident Will Dunne (January 15-February 22). TimeLine Theatre has the world premiere of Not Enough Air (January 24-February 22), a new work by Marsha Obolensky that explores the life of journalist-turned-playwright Sophie Treadwell, and her creation of her most famous work, the play Machinal. The month of premieres closes out with a site-specific piece from the Neo-Futurists, Beer, written by company members Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda, and performed -- appropriately enough -- at the Metropolitan Brewery (January 31-March 7).

So much for new; now how 'bout some old stuff? the Goodman Theatre launches a two-month "global exploration" of the works of Eugene O'Neill with Desire Under the Elms, directed by Robert Falls and featuring his longtime friend and artistic partner, Brian Dennehy (January 17-February 22). Lillian Hellmann's The Little Foxes comes to Shattered Globe Theatre at the Greenhouse (January 8-March 8), while Macbeth plays Chicago Shakespeare Theater, January 2-March 8. Chicago Shakes also offers a kind-of revival of European writer Peter Weiss' 1960's docu-drama, The Investigation in its studio theatre (January 21-31), presented in an 80-minute French version by Urwintone, a Rwandan theatre troupe, which reshapes it as a work about the Rwandan genocide. Also from the 1960's is Peter Barnes' large-cast (21) raucous-but-bleak comedy, Red Noses, presented in Chicago for the first time in over 20 years by Hubris Productions at National Pastime Theatre (January 24-February 28). The roster of January classics closes with Noel Coward's Design for Living, presented by First Folio Theatre in a mansion setting (January 31-March 1).

The January list of musicals runs to the familiar: a two-week return visit by yet another production of Grease (Auditorium Theatre, January 6-18), a new Miss Saigon at the revived and expanded Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace (January 8-March 8); a two-week third visit from Monty Python's Spamalot, with Richard Chamberlain as King Arthur (Auditorium Theatre, January 20-February 1); and a sit-down company of Xanadu at the Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place for what the producers hope will be a long run (from January 28). Also of note: Wicked closes at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre on January 25 after a run of three years and eight months.

Also of interest: The Other Shore, an English translation of the most famous work by Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, presented by Halcyon Theatre at the Lincoln Square Theatre (January 16-February 21); Scott McPherson's moving comedy, Marvin's Room, at Red Twist Theatre (January 2-31); Toni Press-Coffman's Touch, at New Leaf Theatre (January 7-February 14); Lee Blessing's two-character drama Great Falls (from last year's Humana Festival) at Profiles Theatre (January 15-March 1); John Patrick Shanley's Italian American Reconciliation, mounted by Buffalo Theatre Ensemble at the MAC in Glen Ellyn (January 16-February 8); Ken Urban's The Private Lives of Eskimos (or 16 words for snow), staged by The Mill at Stage Left Theatre (January 11-February 7); and Anna Deavere Smith's Fires in the Mirror, at the 16th Street Theatre in Berwyn (January 30-February 28).

Finally, if you've had difficulty finding a really good and creative show for young kids, you might check out The Selfish Giant, based on the fairy tale by Oscar Wilde. This is a remount by Chicago Children's Theatre at the Museum of Science and Industry (January 18-March 1), and it's been lovingly rendered by a group of gifted artists: writer/director Blair Thomas, the Fast Fish Puppet Theatre and celebrated folkloric composer Michael Smith.


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