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Chicago Spotlight: November 2007

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Lance Baker and Marcela Munoz
in A Park in Our House
(© Liz Lauren)
An interesting November concurrence is overlapping productions by Cuban-American authors detailing life and family experiences in Castro's Cuba. The Goodman Theatre continues with Eduardo Machado's The Cook (through November 18) while Victory Gardens Theater and Teatro Vista co-present A Park in Our House, by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz (November 5-December 9).

The month continues with a clutch of original works. The Premiere Theatre Company adapts The Quiltmakers' Gift, which will be both shadow interpreted and translated into American Sign Language (October 30-December 16 at the Athenaeum Theatre). Next, Polarity Ensemble Theatre presents Ghost Watch, a drama by local writer and director Richard Engling inspired by a real-life haunting (November 2-25 at the Irish-American Heritage Center). The next night, the award-winning About Face Theatre Company offers Wedding Play, a world premiere by artistic director Eric Rosen (November 3-December 2, Steppenwolf Reskin Garage Theatre). The same night, the highly creative Neo-Futurists unveil a world premiere, audience-interactive theatrical happening, Mr. Fluxus, based on the 1960's kinetic art movement, fluxus (November 3-December 8). The audience will be segmented, and sent into the fray every 15 minutes.

The second week of November is equally plump with new works beginning with Machos, a project by Teatro Luna, Chicago's highly-regarded all-Latin female writing and performing collective. Although performed by an all-female cast, Machos is based on extensive interviews with men (at Chicago Dramatists, November 8-December 16). A long-surviving but little-seen company that presents ensemble-written new works staged without a director, Theater Oobleck makes its return with Spukt (at The Viaduct, November 9-22). In the far-north Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, the side project offers two world premieres in repertory, Smart and Butt Nekkid (November 10-December 16).

The month closes with a light-weight world premiere by three authors with significant pedigrees. As a lark, playwrights Lisa Dillman, Rebecca Gilman, and Brett Neveu have collaborated on a British mystery parody, Lord Butterscotch and the Curse of the Darkwater Phantom, presented by Blindfaith Theatre Company at the Storefront Theatre (November 30-January 6).

Modern and contemporary masters are well-represented in November: Hubris Productions presents Alan Ball's Five Women Wearing the Same Dress (Hoover-Leppen Theatre, November 3-December 8); Pearl Cleage is represented by Bourbon at the Border, Eclipse Theatre (Victory Gardens Greenhouse, November 11-December 12); A Prayer for My Daughter, by Thomas Babe, opens the season at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company (November 11-December 22); and Next Theatre Company offers John Patrick Shanley's Defiance (November 12-December 9), the second play in Shanley's proposed trilogy that began with Doubt.

Profiles Ensemble continues its Neil LaBute tribute season with Things We Said Today (November 16-December 16); Court Theatre stirs up farcical sturm und drang with Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw (November 17-December 9); ShawChicago offers GBS's Getting Married at the Ruth Page Arts Center (November 18-December 10); Remy Bumppo moves into festive mood with the familiar and popular The Philadelphia Story (November 19-January 6); and Writers' Theatre in Glencoe launches a long run (in their tiny space behind Books on Vernon) of Jeffrey Hatcher's two-character adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, the classic Henry James thriller (November 28-March 30).

As always, there are some special events and spectaculars: the Ringling Brothers Circus is in town with Bellobration, featuring star clown, Bello (November 1-25, split between the urban United Center and suburban Allstate Arena); The Phantom of the Opera returns -- haven't they fixed that chandelier yet? (Cadillac Palace Theatre, October 31-January 5); and Chicago Shakespeare Theater offers a treat for all ages with a return visit by the French physical theater troupe Compagnie Thierre, presenting Farewell Umbrella (November 21-December 1). The company is led by the deftly gifted grandson of Charlie Chaplin.

Finally, Halcyon Theatre stages Haroun and the Sea of Stories by noted author Salman Rushdie, (Lincoln Square Art Center, November 24-December 11). Written for Britain's' Royal National Theatre, Rushdie's first play was presented about 10 years ago as a work for children and families, but Halcyon is pitching this Chicago premiere to adults, which is smart. This writer saw the Royal National Theatre original and found it to be an imaginative variation on the classic journey of discovery theme, but very long and convoluted. Rushdie layers stories inside of stories inside of stories far beyond the attention span of most children.

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