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Chicago Spotlight: January 2011

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Regina Taylor
(© Tristan Fuge)
January gives birth to 40-plus new shows in Chicago, among them The Trinity River Plays, by Regina Taylor, at the Goodman Theatre (January 15--February 20), a co-production with the Dallas Theatre Center that may be Broadway bound. Presented in one evening, the trilogy follows a woman named Iris Spears from a fateful event as a teenager, to fleeing a collapsing marriage, and finally confronting the ghosts that continue to haunt her.

Also on tap is the first post-Broadway regional production of Monty Python's Spamalot, at Drury Lane Theatre (through March 6), as well as Broadway director Gary Griffin's take on Shakespeare's As You Like It at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (January 5-March 6).

But the first theatrical baby of 2011 is An Unscripted Romance, semi-improvised by performers Derrick Aguis and Lindsey Dunn who incorporate real-life audience experiences into a two-act storyline about the typical arc of a relationship, at the Annoyance Theatre (January 2-February 13). January's last theatrical baby will be the world premiere of Joel Drake Johnson's The Boys Room at Victory Gardens Theater (Janury 21-March 20). About two middle-aged brothers who return home to live with Mom, the production is the sixth collaboration between Johnson and director Sandy Shinner.

In between the first and last: Heiner Muller's intriguing riff on "something's rotten in the state of Denmark," Hamletmachine, at the intimate Trap Door Theatre (January 6-March 12); also The Elephant Man, presented by BoHo Theatre at Theater Wit (January 7-March 6); and The Beats, Marilyn Campbell's 1997 adaptation of the writings of Beat Generation authors, at the 16th Street Theatre (January 13-March 27).

Other familiar works include Martin McDonough's dramedy, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, offered by Shattered Globe Theatre at the Athenaeum (January 13-March 27); then David Mamet's seldom-seen comedy Lakeboat, at Steep Theatre (January 20-March 26); also Edward Albee's autobiographical Three Tall Women, staged by artistic director Charles Newell at Court Theatre (January 13-March 13); and Henrik Ibsen's ground-breaking 1879 drama, A Doll's House, updated to 1962 New York City by Infamous Commonwealth Theatre at The Greenhouse (January 22-March 27).

January is big for Profiles Theatre with two shows: Profiles remounts its autumn hit, Jailbait, by Deirdre O'Connor at its newly-acquired Second Stage (January 13-March 27), and also continues its long relationship with playwright Neil LaBute by presenting reasons to be pretty at its home space (January 21-March 13).

As always in Chicago, several world premieres are on the January docket, among them Six More Scary Tales by Daniel Denman, whose stories of avarice, curiosity, vampires and more are presented by Clock Productions at the National Pastime Theatre (January 13-February 26). WildClaw Theatre mounts another blood-sucking world premiere with Carmilla, adapted from J. Sheridan Le Fanu's tale of a female vampire, at the Storefront Theater (January 14-March 20). Then, House Theatre of Chicago premieres Brett Neveu's Odradek, inspired by Kafka in part, at the Chopin Theatre (January 8-March 26). Another Neveu world premiere, Do The Hustle, is at Writers' Theatre (January 25-March 20).

Other productions of note: the American premiere of Port, Simon Stephens' British working-class drama, staged by Griffin Theatre at the Raven Theater (January 8-March 26); also Danai Gurira's drama of the Liberian civil war, Eclipsed, at Northlight Theatre (January 13-March 20); then Winter Miller's drama of the Sudanese civil war, In Darfur, at TimeLine Theatre (January 18-March 20); and J. T. Rodgers' award-winning three-character drama Madagascar (NOT set in Africa despite its title) at Next Theatre (January 20-March 20); then Laura Eason's Sex with Strangers, at Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre (January 20-May 15), developed in 2009 at Steppenwolf's First Look Repertory of New Work.

Finally, a special performance event: Silk Road Theatre Project and Chicago's Millennium Park present Dawn's Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi, January 13-15 only at the Pritzker Pavilion. Jeanne Sakata's fact-based one-man play is the story of one of the few Japanese-Americans to challenge our World War II internment policy. A huge hit at the East-West Players in Los Angeles, it will be performed by its original star, Ryun Yu.

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