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Greg Vinkler in Chicago Shakespeare Theatre' Top 10 Must-Sees for the Second Half of the 2004 Theater Season
by Rick Reed

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Pictured (1) Greg Vinkler in Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and (2) Winesburg, Ohio.

The remainder of 2004 is chock full of potential on-stage winners. Here are the 10 I'm most excited about.

1. Benefactors (Writers' Theatre, March 2 to July 11): Written by the author of Noises Off and Copenhagen, Benefactors explores the rise and fall of a friendship between two couples. This witty drama is staged by award-winning director Gary Griffin (Loot, My Fair Lady, Pacific Overtures).

2. Proof (Goodman, March 27-April 25): The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner comes home to Chicago as Chuck Smith directs an all-African-American cast in this elegant and eloquent, greatly entertaining and thoroughly engrossing play.

3. Fraulein Else (Court, April 22-May 16): This searing new look at Arthur Schnitzler's 1924 novella was hailed by The San Francisco Chronicle as a 'concentrated, compelling drama—a gripping story of the unraveling of a mind trained for frivolity told from the inside.'

4. Speaking in Tongues (Famous Door, March 11-April 18): Film fans may know Speaking in Tongues as Lantana, the award-winning film adaptation of this dramatic thriller featuring Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey. Don't miss this Midwest premiere!

5. King John (Chicago Shakespeare, March 20-June 6): Artistic Director Barbara Gaines directs the tale of the monarch we know from the legends of Robin Hood. Witness John's troublesome reign, plagued by questions of legitimacy, a crumbling dynasty, and a nation in moral crisis.

6. Yellowman (Next Theatre, April 22-May 23): A lyrical play about a love affair between Alma, a Black woman from the Gullah Country in South Carolina, and Eugene, a light-skinned Black man with higher-class roots, this modern-day Romeo and Juliet story is unlike anything being written in American theater today.

7. I Never Sang for My Father (Steppenwolf, April 22-June 20): Featuring Frasier's John Mahoney (also a Steppenwolf ensemble member), this intelligent, heartwarming story strikes a universal chord on the subjects of family, aging, and loss.

8. Winesburg, Ohio (About Face, June 17-July 18): This new musical adaptation of Sherwood Anderson's classic by Eric Rosen tells the story of the extraordinary passions that lie beneath the surface of a small midwestern town. Original score and additional lyrics by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman.

9. It's All True (Timeline, May 1-June 6): Art and politics collide when the government's Works Progress Administration shuts down Orson Welles' new pro-union musical The Cradle Will Rock in 1937. This fast-paced and brilliantly witty comedy brings to life a defining moment in the history of American theatre.

10. R3, A Gothic Tale (Theo Ubique, May-June): A psychological profile of Shakespeare's greatest villain king: Richard the Third uses Jungian archetypes, ritual, industrial music, sex and violence. Could be disastrous, could be sublime, won't be boring.

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