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Chicago Spotlight: March 2008

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The world premiere of the biographical musical I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass) at the Black Ensemble Theater (beginning March 7), follows the gifted soul singer whose soaring career seemingly was cut short when a traffic accident left him a quadriplegic. Still, within two years he was recording again . . . from a wheelchair. Written and directed by Black Ensemble founder Jackie Taylor, I Am Who I Am features familiar Pendergrass hits and also debuts three brand-new songs written by Pendergrass and Bill Jolly specifically for the show.

Another musical highlight is a "reimagining" of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel (March 12-April 13) by Court Theatre artistic director Charles Newell, co-produced with the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, where it will play after the Chicago run. There's a rare musical revival in west suburban Forest Park where Circle Theatre is staging the 1953 Abe Burrows-Cole Porter tuner Can-Can (through April 6). Other March musicals include a new production of the small-scale A Man of No Importance at Bailiwick Repertory (March 17-April 20), and a new staging of Sweet Charity at the Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace, directed and choreographed by Jim Corti (March 20-May 18).

On the dramatic front, comes the Goodman Theatre's production of Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful, starring Lois Smith (through April 6), and the world premiere of Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat, by award-winning Egyptian-American playwright Yusef El Guindi, at Silk Road Theatre Project (through March 30). The play employs humor and satire to explore the playwright's frequent themes of the perils and trials of assimilation for Middle Easterners in contemporary America.

Carter's Way at Steppenwolf Theatre Company (through April 27) marks the return of long-absent Steppenwolf Ensemble member Eric Simonson, who wrote and directed the jazz-influenced play, which is set amidst the legendary mid-1930's jazz scene of Kansas City. A Steady Rain (beginning March 4), a good-cop/bad-cop drama by Keith Huff, is being remounted by New York-based commercial producers at the Royal George Theatre, starring Chicago actors Randy Steinmeyer and Peter DeFaria under the direction of Russ Tutterow.

Wanna' laugh? Consider Moliere's The Misanthrope, presented by Greasy Joan & Company at the Athenaeum (March 7-April 5), the farce Feydeau-Si-Deau fashioned from the knock-about comedies of Georges Feydeau by Theatre Wit at Theatre Building Chicago (March 14-April 20), or Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Oak Park Festival (March 28-April 27).

Those with a taste for rue can catch Edward Albee's barn-burner Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at Actors Workshop (through March 30), Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at Mary-Arrchie Theatre (through April 12), David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly by Bohemian Theatre Ensemble at the Heartland Studio (March 14-April 20), or Jim Leonard's' Appalachian drama, The Diviners, by Speaking Ring at National Pastime Theatre (March 14-April 5).

Also on tap this month is the intriguing Underneath the Lintel, by Glen Berger, at City Lit Theatre (March 10-April 20), Chekhov's comic but poignant Uncle Vanya by TUTA at Chopin Theatre (March 13-April 13), and Redmoon Theater's Boneyard Prayer, a world premiere of struggle, sorrow, and salvation drawn from the works of authors William Kennedy, T. S. Eliot, Dante, and others and told in Redmoon's signature style of live performers, puppetry, masks, and mechanical stage effects (Redmoon Central, March 15-May 11).

Something for the kids? Teenage romance always works and none better than a 75-minute Romeo and Juliet, part of the Short Shakespeare series for families at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (through April 5). Slightly younger kids might enjoy Bobby Corn and the House on Weedy Lake, an original family musical mystery offered by Corn Productions at the Cornservatory (through April 6).


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