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Chicago Spotlight: May 2009

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Stephen Yoakam in rehearsal for Rock 'N Roll
(© Michael Brosilow)
April in Chicago was a month of musicals but May is a month of plays, many of them by Sir Tom Stoppard and Henrik Ibsen. Piccolo Theatre in Evanston offers Stoppard's ocean liner farce Rough Crossing (a reworking of a 1920's Ferenc Molnar hit) at the Arts Depot (May 1-30). Then, Goodman Theatre chimes in with the Chicago debut of Stoppard's more recent Rock 'n' Roll (May 2-June 7), a play that celebrates rock music and the playwright's native Czechoslovakia. Meantime, the St. Sebastian Players continue a run of Stoppard's most romantic play, The Real Thing, at St. Bonaventure Church (through May 17).

It's triple witching hour for Ibsen, too, with modern rethinks of two of his most powerful social dramas. Raven Theatre stages Hedda Gabler as adapted by Jon Robin Baitz (through June 27), and Red Tape Theatre offers a female Dr. Stockman in Enemy of the People, at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Chicago (through May 30). A much more traditional production of Ibsen's Ghosts continues at the Chicago Cultural Center (through May 11), presented by ShawChicago.

Ibsen isn't the only serious social dramatist to rear his head in Chicago this month. The 16th Street Theatre in near-west Berwyn brings in Islamic author and performer Rohini (who is of Indo-Pakistani heritage) in her one-woman show Unveiled, based on sex and sexism in the contemporary Islamic world, May 1-31. Oracle Productions offers the U. S. premiere of Zero (May 2-June 21), by British author Chris O'Connell. Set in the near-future, it examines a society in which torture and extreme methods have become accepted commonplaces of police behavior. Then, Will Act for Food offers American Notes by the always socio-political Len Jenkin, at Prop Theatre (May 8-June 7). August Wilson's powerful and entertaining The Piano Lesson lands at Court Theatre (May 5-June 7), directed by the respected Ron OJ Parson. Then, Victory Gardens Theater presents one of the hottest plays in American just now, Aditi Brennan Kapil's Love Person, a tale of multi-culturalism and multi-sexuality told in English, Sanskrit, American Sign Language and through projected emails (May 15-June 14).

As always, there are a number of new works on the schedule. Distinguished writer and actor Nambi E. Kelley brings her Hope VI to Chicago Dramatists (May 29-July 12), where she is a resident playwright. Another Chicago-based writer, Lisa Dillman, is represented by The Walls, staged by Rivendell Theatre Company at Steppenwolf (May 17-June 20). Also, Ellen Fairey's tale of modern family and Elvis, Graceland, has its world premiere at Profiles Theatre (May 22-June 28). Chicago also sees the regional premiere of always-feisty Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Northlight Theatre (through June 7) and The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged), offered by Ouroboros Theatre Company at the Heartland Studio (May 15-June 7). Veteran comic Ron Keaton directs, and he knows what's funny.

As for the musicals, Chicago Opera Theater is staging a Broadway show for one of the few times in its history, the 90-minute La Tragedie de Carmen, at its resident venue, the Harris Music and Dance Theater (May 2-15). Chicago Opera Theater continues its 2009 season with Benjamin Britten's rarely-seen Owen Wingrave (May 16-26). COT's season is dedicated to the memory of founder Alan Stone, who died last summer at 79. More standard musical theater fare includes a new Porchlight Music Theatre staging of Once On This Island at Theatre Building Chicago (May 11-June 28) and a month-long stop by the national tour of Legally Blonde the Musical at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (May 12-June 7). Also, the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire does The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (May 13-July 19). Finally, Noble Fool Theatricals at the Pheasant Run Resort (St. Charles) presents the satiric light-rock musical, Altar Boyz (through July 12).

At the tale-end of the month, Lookingglass Theatre revives its famous production of The Arabian Nights (Water Tower Pumping Station, May 20-July 12), as adapted and directed by Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman. Bawdy enough to interest adults yet not inappropriate for children, this production features a far more ethnically-diverse cast than when the show was new 17 years ago.

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