Before next Labor Day roles around, the 200-plus theater companies in Greater Chicago will have offered over12,000 performances of 900 different shows ( according to the League of Chicago Theatres ) . That's a helluva lot of wheat. That's a helluva lot of chaff. How can you decide what's best to see BEFORE you spend your money on a ticket? Well, naturally, you may rely on the opinions of your friendly, neighborhood theater critics here in WCT. And you may wish to consider the following shows, which Stage Door Jonny thinks will be of special interest to our GLBTQ readers.
HUSHABYE MOUNTAIN, Famous Door Theatre Company, now playing through Oct. 7 ( see review in this issue ) . This is the follow-up play by British author Jonathan Harvey, who's Beautiful Thing was such a lovely film and play ( produced here and in New York by Famous Door ) . This work deals with an AIDS-related death from the perspective both of those left behind and the ghostly deceased, who...we have been told...hangs out with Judy Garland. Real question is, given the subject matter, can Harvey maintain the hopeful tone and positive role re-enforcement that made Beautiful Thing so appealing?
THE BIRDS, Sweetback Productions, Oct. 12-Nov. 17. Get ready, kids, this one might be the camp classic of the season. It's a feminist, drag deconstruction of the legendary Alfred Hitchcock film about our feathered friends run amok. This version not only is a parody of the film, but also satirizes Hitch himself making the film ( and making Tippi Hedren, too! ) . It even has something the film didn't have: songs.
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BIG LOVE, Goodman Theatre, Oct. 19-Nov. 18. Playwright Charles L. Mee has created a highly visual and thought-provoking masterwork, based on the Greek tragedy, The Suppliant Women. While not specifically GLBTQ, this work...in which 50 sisters pledge to murder the 50 male cousins to whom they have been betrothed in their youth...has a great deal to say about male attitudes towards women, traditional female subservience, and the generosity of true love.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT, Next Theatre, Nov. 11-Dec. 16. Playwright Moises Kaufman ( The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde ) and a team of writers were in Laramie, Wy., just a month after the murder of Matthew Shepard. This play is the result, based on extensive interviews with citizens and officials, a powerful statement about contemporary American thinking.
TOP GIRLS, Remy Bumppo Productions, Nov. 21-Dec. 30. Another women's issues play, but this time by a woman, Caryl Churchill, who pictures a London dinner party attended by explorer Isabella Bird, Lady Nijo ( Japanese courtesan turned Buddhist nun ) , Pope Joan and other representative women who broke through the glass cielings of their eras, one way or another. Over dinner, they explore the sacrifices required to become a "top girl" at any time, in any place.
BEING BEAUTIFUL, Bailiwick Arts Center, Jan. 9, 2002-Feb. 28. It's a musical, about African-American drag queens, in Chicago, in the 1940s. And it's based on fact. This show, by McKinley Johnson and Stephanie Newsom, was a most courageous choice ( and a surprise hit ) when premiered last season at Chicago Theatre Company, one of the city's leading Afro-centric theater troupes. The new production at Bailiwick will feature a revised script and score.
SEVEN MOVES, About Face Theatre Company, Jan, 10-Feb, 17. An adaptation by Patricia Kane of the lesbian novel by Carol Anshaw about two powerful women, their comfortable love, the sudden disappearance of one and the many secrets the remaining lover soon discovers about her missing partner.
THE LISBON TRAVIATA, Circle Theatre ( Forest Park ) , Jan, 30-March 10. Terrence McNally spent many years writing in the closet. When he finally came out as a playwright, he REALLY took the plunge! This is his widely produced play about obsessive love and a gay crumbling relationship that culminates in murderous passion. Intentionally melodramatic, it has the exaggerated emotions of opera, as the title suggests. McNally, a considerable opera authority, is a frequent guest on the Texaco Opera Quiz during the Saturday afternoon broadcasts from the Met in New York.
FASCINATION, About Face, March 28-May 19. A world premiere by Jim Grimsley, the gay author of Dream Boy, the novel so beautifully adapted for the stage by About Face in its first season. This new work, written directly for the stage, concerns a serial killer, the boy he kills, and the world in which they both move ( and in which we live ) .
In addition to the above, there will be many, many, many productions of works by gay authors both living and dead. While these plays are not necessarily on GLBTQ themes, the notoriety and brilliance of the writers themselves make them of special interest. Among this category: the world premiere of THE VISIT, a musical with book by Terrence McNally ( music and lyrics by Kander & Ebb ) , Goodman Theatre, through Oct, 28; YOU NEVER KNOW, a rarely produced musical by the master of double-entendre, Cole Porter, Light Opera Works ( Evanston ) , Oct, 5-Nov, 4; and January-February productions of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF by Tennessee Williams at Apple Tree Theatre ( Highland Park ) ; Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLFE?, Shattered Globe Theatre; and Sondheim musicals everywhere ( check out PACIFIC OVERTURES at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Porchlight, both opening next month ) .
Of special note: a new work from gay Chicago playwright Joel Drake Johnson, who's coming-out play, Before My Eyes, was an award-winning hit at Victory Gardens three years ago. Johnson's new effort is A BLUE MOON, opening March 22 at Chicago Dramatists.