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FALL THEATER PREVIEW Checking out the LGBTQ lineup
by Kerry Reid
2018-09-19

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From world premieres to revivals of old favorites, the fall season offers a complex lens on LGBTQ stories. Some draw inspiration from past works, while others come straight from the creators' own lives.

—Homos, or Everyone in America: Jordan Seavey's 2016 play tackles what it means to be young, urban and gay—at least for a subset of New Yorkers in the middle of the last decade. Two men, identified as "The Writer" and "The Academic," negotiate the terms of their relationship in what's been described as a millennial's version of The Boys in the Band. Derek Van Barham directs Niko Kourtis and Pride Films and Plays artistic director Nelson A. Rodriguez, along with Jordan Dell Harris and Jessica Vann, in this Chicago premiere. Running through Sept. 30, The Broadway at Pride Arts Center. Info/tickets pridefilmsandplays.com .

—Scraps: Inspired by The Patchwork Girl of Oz, one of the later titles in L. Frank Baum's series, this world premiere by Anthony Whitaker of New American Folk Theatre follows Scraps as she attempts to shed the quilt that she's made of in order to become a "normal" person. Along the way, she discovers the colorful "patchwork" of racial and gender identity that makes up Oz—and our own world. Brittney Brown plays the title role under Jamal Howard's direction, with seven other actors playing multiple roles. Through Sept. 29, the Den Theatre. Info/tickets newamericanfolktheatre.org .

—We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time: Gay monologist David Cale, whose works were fixtures of the old Goodman Theatre's studio space, takes over the big stage in this world premiere "musical memoir," directed by Robert Falls. As in his earlier fictionalized solo, Redthroats ( presented at the Goodman 30 years ago ), Cale anatomizes his childhood in an industrial English town with unhappily married parents, where he seeks comfort by singing alone in his bedroom and tending wounded birds in a backyard "animal hospital." Sept. 15-Oc. 21, Goodman Theatre. Info/tickets GoodmanTheatre.org .

—The Artificial Jungle: Camp master Charles Ludlam's last play brings a noir touch ( think Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice ) to his trademark pastiche style. Chester Nurdiger, a mild-mannered pet shop owner with a vixenish wife and a long-suffering mother, finds his world upended—and his life in peril — when a sexy drifter comes to town. Shade Murray directs for Hell in a Handbag, with artistic director David Cerda as Mother Nurdiger, Ed Jones as Chester, and Sydney Genco and David Lipschutz as the scheming wife/drifter duo. Sept. 20-Oct. 28, Stage 773. Info/tickets: HandbagProductions.org .

—Koalas: Berwyn's small-but-mighty 16th Street Theater presents the world premiere of Chicago-based playwright J. Joseph Cox's drama, directed by Josh Sobel. Set in Fresno, California in 1999, Cox's play centers on Ray Singer, who finds himself dealing with an unemployed brother, a gender-nonconforming child, and an escaped marsupial in his backyard. As he fights for visitation rights with his kid, Ray also has to confront the narrow notions of masculinity he inherited from his own dad. Sept. 20-Oct. 27, 16th Street Theater. Info/tickets 16thstreettheater.org .

—Indecent: Despite decades of acclaim for plays such as How I Learned to Drive and The Baltimore Waltz, lesbian playwright Paula Vogel didn't get a shot on Broadway until 2017. Sholem Asch's controversial 1922 play, God of Vengeance, which was set in a brothel, and featured a love scene between two women that was finally cut in the original, forms the matrix for Vogel's drama. In addition to restoring that scene in a series of variations, Indecent also celebrates the groundbreaking career of Asch, who was one of the most prolific and daring writers in the Yiddish canon. Gary Griffin directs. Sept. 21-November 4, Victory Gardens Theater. Info/tickets: VictoryGardens.org . .

—Les Innocents/The Innocents: If you're looking for an artsy haunted-house experience for Halloween, consider this ( re )discover theatre production. Set in the Paris Catacombs in 1897, creator/director Ann Kreitman's immersive "queer thriller" takes the audience through the spooky setting as if they were ghosts. Inspired by a real concert that took place at the Catacombs ( which featured Camille Saint-Saens' Catacombs-inspired Danse Macabre ), the show melds themes of love, life and decay in a goth/mythic musical environment. Oct. 7-November 4, Preston Bradley Center. Info/tickets: RediscoverTheatre.com .

—It's Only a Play: As Bart Simpson was forced to write on the blackboard once, "There are PLENTY of businesses like show business." But try telling that to the denizens of Terrence McNally's 1982 behind-the-Broadway-scenes comedy, in which a disastrous opening-night party allows for name-dropping, back-biting and schadenfreude galore. McNally updated the script for a 2014 Broadway run. This Pride Films and Plays production, directed by Jon Martinez, marks the first Chicago production since that revival. Oct. 11-November 11, The Broadway at Pride Arts Center. Info/tickets: PrideFilmsAndPlays.com . .

—The Last Session: Composer/lyricist Steve Schalchin's chamber musical first opened in 1997 in the wake of his AIDS diagnosis and near-death, which he wrote about in a blog. After he rebounded, he created this show with book writer Jim Brochu. The story follows Gideon, a former gospel-star-turned-pop singer/songwriter with AIDS, who is determined to commit suicide after making one last album. Refuge Theatre Project artistic director Christopher Pazdernik directs. Oct. 25-Dec. 2, Atlas Arts Studio. Info/tickets: RefugeTheatre.com . .

—This Bitter Earth: Racial tensions and the tug-of-war between the introspective artist's life and that of the committed activist provide the dramatic conflicts in Harrison David Rivers' two-character drama, which gets a local premiere with About Face Theatre under Mikael Burke's direction. Jesse ( Sheldon Brown ) is a Black playwright from a working-class family whose white lover, Neil ( Daniel Desmarais ), a Black Lives Matter activist who was raised in wealth, calls him out for seeming apathy. Their four-year relationship unfolds in non-chronological order as they wrestle with race, class and the relative value their respective careers have in such fraught times. November 1-December 8, Theater Wit. Info/ticketsa: AboutFaceTheatre.com . .


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