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Chicago Spotlight: September 2009

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Molly Brennan, Jonathan Brody, Ed Kross, and Joey Slotnick
in rehearsal for Animal Crackers
(© Eric Y. Exit)
Thirty days hath September, but the minimum number of shows opening in Chicago will be at least 40 as the 2009-2010 theater season doesn't wait for the Autumnal Equinox to get up a head of steam. The Goodman Theatre launches its mainstage season with a rare revival of Animal Crackers (September 18-October 25), the wacky musical originally created (in 1928) for the Four Marx Brothers. This newly-edited version restores much lost material, and features a woman (Molly Brennan) in the Harpo Marx role, that of the wordless Professor. Notable cast members also include Joey Slotnik as Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, Mara Davi as Arabella Rittenhouse, and Tony Yazbeck as Wally Winston.

A Red Orchid Theatre brings back ensemble member -- and Oscar nominee -- Michael Shannon to star in the world premiere of Craig Wright's political drama Mistakes Were Made (September 10-October 18). Steppenwolf Theatre Company begins its season with the debut of Fake (September 10-November 8), written and directed by Oscar winner Eric Simonson. Set in 1914, this fascinating play concerns Arthur Conan Doyle and the scandal surrounding The Piltdown Man, a hoax believed at the time to be the long-sought "missing link" in the development of the human species.

There's a new nun show, Saints & Sinners (beginning September 1), written and produced by Vicki Quade, who brought the world Late Nite Catechism and Put the Nuns in Charge both of which continue their forever-runs at the Royal George Theatre, where Saints & Sinners will join them in rep. City Lit Theatre presents the world premiere adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man (through October 11), while Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Richard III (September 23-December 6), starring Wallace Acton in the title role. The musical Hairspray is at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (September 23- December 6), where Marissa Perry and Constantine Rousouli will reprise the roles of Tracy Turnblad and Link Larkin that they played on Broadway, while the cast also features Ross Lehman as Edna Turnblad, Hollis Resnick as Velma Von Tussle, and E. Faye Butler as Motormouth Maybelle.

Yeast Nation, at American Theatre Company (September 10-October 18), is the much-anticipated weird tuner by the authors of Urinetown, Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis. Set approximately three billion years ago, it concerns primordial ooze and the survival of a colony of yeast cells. Sure, they can sing, but how do they dance? Chicago Children's Theatre offers a major new work with The Hundred Dresses, a musical version of the book by Eleanor Estes, at the Royal George mainstage (September 25-November 1), by Chicago authors Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills. Northlight Theatre opens its season with the Off-Broadway show, The Marvelous Wonderettes (September 17-October 25), kind-of a female version of Forever Plaid, with its 1950's setting and songs.

EP Theatre offers Brecht's Baal with original, live music by The Loneliest Monk art-rock trio (September 12-October 10). Going from the profane to the sacred, Provision Theatre remounts its 2004 hit version of Cotton Patch Gospel at new digs just south of The Loop (September 10-November 8). Porchlight Music Theatre offers a more intimate show than usual with the small-scale perennial favorite, The Fantasticks, at Theatre Building Chicago (September 13-November 15). Man of La Mancha is at Theatre at the Center (September 10-October 17), with the always-popular James Harms as Don Quixote.

A few dramatic highlights: Rebecca Lenkiewicz's Irish-set fantasy, The Night Season, presented by Premier Theatre and Vitalist Theatre at Theatre Building Chicago (September 8-October 17); Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's comedy about Earth's collision with a calamitous comet, Boom, at Next Theatre (September 11-October 11); and Brendan Behan's The Hostage, offered by Griffin Theatre at Theatre Building Chicago (September 12-November 1).

Also: 12 Ophelias: A Play with Broken Songs is a take on Hamlet by Caridad Svich, and presented by Trap Door Theatre (September 24-October 31); August Wilson's early drama, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, opening Court Theatre's 55th season (September 17-October 18); and St. Crispin's Day, a black comedy by Matt Pepper inspired by the least honorable characters in Shakespeare's Henry V, presented by Strawdog Theatre (September 24-October 31).

And for something completely different: Hubris Productions takes over a leading "Boys' Town" gay club to present the musical parody Annee Pocalypse!, an adults-only spoof featuring Little Whorin' Annee and her adventures with Daddy Starbucks, at Hydrate (September 18-October 19).

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