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Chicago Spotlight: May 2006

What's She to Hecuba? logo
Marsha Mason and Monet Butler in Hecuba
(Photo © Peter Bosy)
There's no such thing as a bad week for theater in Chicago, at least on paper. The first week of May alone is typical of the variety available quite apart from the quantity. As for quality, well, see a show and judge for yourself.

The month begins with the world premiere of Heritage, American Theatre Company (May 1-28), a new play from Chicago-based Brett Neveu a writer of growing national stature. Neveu has been called the heir to David Mamet for his gritty, often-threatening plays, although Neveu's style does not imitate Mamet. There's another world premiere of sorts on May 3, a new adaptation by Frank McGuinness of Euripides' tragedy, Hecuba, with Marsha Mason in the title role at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (through June 18). This intimate staging is by former Tony Award nominee Patrick Mason. That same evening, Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair opens at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (through July 2). It's not a great show, but it does boast such great songs as "It's a Grand Night for Singing" and "It Might As Well Be Spring."

The first weekend in May clusters five openings in three days. The Shantz Theatre serves up the world premiere of The Marriage of Marcus Tyler, written and directed by company co-founder Matt Fotis, at Breadline Theatre (May 5-27). On May 6, Lookingglass Theatre Company stages a world premiere adaptation of Charles Dickens' early novel, The Old Curiosity Shop, famous for the death of Little Nell, a scene of powerful and memorable pathos. That same day.Steppenwolf Theatre Company offers the world premiere of playwright/novelist Don DeLillo's Love-Lies-Bleeding, with Austin Pendleton and Martha Lavey featured in the cast. Completing the triple play for the day, Timeline Theatre Company stages its first-ever musical, Bock and Harnick's tuneful Fiorello, about New York City's celebrated mayor of the 1930's and 1940's, Fiorello LaGuardia. Last but not least is Power, staged by Remy Bumppo Theatre Company at Victory Gardens Theater (May 7-June 4). This finely-tuned small ensemble, specializing in period style, tackles 17th-century France in Nick Dear's modern look at the consolidation of authority by King Louis XIV.

Some of the month's dramatic offerings include Sarah Ruhl's prize-winning The Clean House at the Goodman; Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms at the Off-Loop GreyZelda Theatre Company (May 11-June 3); the popular Lettice and Lovage at Court Theatre (May 20-June 11); the Jacobean revenge tragedy The Duchess of Malfi at Writers' Theatre in North Suburban Glencoe (May 23-July 16); and Martin McDonagh's dark contemporary Irish comedy, The Beauty Queen of Leenane at the small Off-Loop Actors Workshop Theatre (May 31-July 2).

Musical fare includes the campy Show Choir!, about a high school chorus, Corn Productions (May 10-June 16); Sondheim's moody musical ode to the death of presidents, Assassins, Open Eye Productions at the city-operated Storefront Theatre (May 12-June 18); a world premiere adult fairy tale musical, Sleeping Ugly, by Griffin Theatre at Theatre Building Chicago (May 14-June 25); John Guare and Marvin Hamlisch's Sweet Smell of Success is revisited by Circle Theatre (May 17-June 25); Jonathan Larson's tick, tick ... BOOM!, Pegasus Players (May 22-June 25); and Side Show, the tuner about conjoined twins, by the daring young Bohemian Ensemble Theatre, also at Theatre Building Chicago (May 26-July 9). Also worth noting: Chicago Opera Theater presents the long-overdue Chicago premiere of John Adams' iconoclastic 1987 opera, Nixon in China, at the Harris Music and Dance Theater (May 17-27).

Finally, on May 20, The LaSalle Bank Theatre reopens after a year-long, $14 million restoration. Owned by the Nederlander Organization, the LaSalle Bank Theatre will be a gem of restored gold leaf, rose carpeting, brass railings, marble walls, original mosaic tile floors and bas relief barrel-vault ceilings. Audiences will also enjoy new seating, better sightlines, enlarged lobby, and expanded restrooms. The special opening event of May 20 will be followed by Valerie Harper in the national tour Golda's Balcony (May 30-June 11).

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