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Chicago Spotlight: August 2006

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Las Mil y Una Noches,
part of the Goodman Latino Theatre Festival
(Photo courtesy of Comediants)
August is the slowest month in Chicago theater, with only two dozen new productions -- a paltry number by local standards. But quality exists even when quantity doesn't.

The Goodman Theatre presents its third biennial Latino Theatre Festival (August 4-20) which showcases solo writer/performers and full productions. Participating troupes include the Comediants (Spain), Pia Fraus (Brazil), Aguijon Theatre Company (Chicago), Universes (New York) and Compania Marta Carrasco (Spain). No production runs more than five days, and most are one or two day events.

Collaboraction presents its sixth annual Sketchbook at Chopin Theatre (August 10-27), offering three different bills of 16 world premiere short plays, none over seven minutes long. The 16 plays selected from over 700 submissions are from authors known and unknown.

Theatre Building Chicago launches its 30th anniversary season with its annual Stages Festival of New Musicals, which offers staged readings of eight new musicals in just three days (August 11-13). Among the highlights is a revision of the long-neglected 1959 jazz musical, The Nervous Set, and a first look at Studio, a new work by Charles Strouse (Annie, Bye-Bye Birdie).

At Northwestern University, the American Music Theater Project (AMTP) offers a fully-staged workshop of The Boys Are Coming Home, at the Barber Theatre (August 3-13). This new musical is loosely based on Shakespeare's romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, and concerns World War II GI's returning to the girls they left behind. The all-new score is in the style of 1940's big band and jitterbug popular music. Gary Griffin (The Color Purple) directs.

Of course, there's non-festival theater as well. Oscar Wilde makes his witty presence felt with Dorian at Bailiwick Repertory (August 3-September 3) and An Ideal Husband as the debut show for pretty blue sky at the Athenaeum Theatre (August 5-September 2). Gray Zelda Theatre Company adapts Hawthorne's 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter, at Stage Left Theatre (August 10-September 16). Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace offers an all-star staging of Agatha Christie's popular chestnut, Ten Little Indians (August 10-September 24). Herman Melville's Moby Dick is raided for a modern, urban and landlocked interpretation, Keep Ishmael, a world premiere by White Horse Theatre Company at Theatre Building Chicago (August 18-September 16). And the Gift Theatre Company offers Eugene O'Neill's monument to family dysfunction, Long Day's Journey into Night (August 28-October 15).

A new troupe called RiMeChi Theatre Company, arrived in Chicago via Rhode Island, offers Lyle Kessler's tale of small-time criminals, Orphans, at City Lit Theatre (August 4-September 9). Signal Ensemble opens a double bill of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter and Edward Albee's early classic, Zoo Story, at Chopin Theatre (August 5-September 3). Actors Workshop chimes in with the American premiere of Proving Mr. Jennings by James Walker. The timely British comedy is about a proper chap who's suspected of terrorist activities (August 9-September 3). Light Opera Works revives the musical, 110 in the Shade, based on the enormously successful 1950's play, The Rainmaker (Cahn Auditorium, Evanston, August 18-27).

Contemporary America is closely examined in a dramatic triple play. The new Home Town Theatre Project debuts with Charles L. Mee's bobrauschenbergamerica at the Spareroom (August 25-September 10). The next day, one of Chicago's most esteemed small companies, TimeLine, opens its 2006-2007 season with Richard Nelson's The General from America, about the infamous Benedict Arnold (August 26-October 8). Meanwhile, EP Theatre teams with Vivo, a gourmet restaurant, on 18%, an elite dining experience and play about the restaurant business (opens August 6). Finally, the Neo-Futurists present Roustabout: The Great Circus Train Wreck! (August 26-September 30), an original work about lions and tigers and twisted steel that is based on the same real railroad wreck that inspired Cecil B DeMille's epic 1950's film, The Greatest Show on Earth.

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