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FALL THEATER PREVIEW Easy does it, A dozen classic plays and musicals
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times

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My gambit is to recommend revivals of works that have been staged and tested previously in Chicago and elsewhere, sometimes uncountable times over many centuries—in other words, the classics.

Several are quite new to be considered classics—Radio Golf and Rock 'n' Roll both are 21st-century plays—while others are burnished with age. New or old, they are worthy works of wit and wisdom which we warmly welcome! Shows are listed in order of production dates including preview performances. The first four shows already are running.

—Radio Golf: The final work in August Wilson's 10-play Century Cycle is set in Pittsburgh's gentrifying Hill District in the 1990s and features descendants of characters from several earlier plays. Wilson deals with serious issues, yet the play mainly is a comedy with an upbeat ending. Court Theatre offers an astonishing cast—James T. Alfred, Allen Gilmore, Ann Joseph, James Vincent Meredith, and Alfred H. Wilson—under director Ron OJ Parsons. Running through Sept. 30 at Court Theatre. Info/tickets: .

—Six Degrees of Separation: New York City's glitterati know that Old Money hires a driver while the Nouveau Riche hire a chauffeur. But how does this white elite respond when the son of a famous African-American celebrity charms them? Should they trust this total stranger? Veteran director Steve Scott tackles this award-winning John Guare comedy in Red Twist's intimate space, which will make you feel like part of the family, so remember that a pot of jam is the perfect gift. Running through Oct. 7 at Red Twist Theatre. Info/tickets: .

—Arms and the Man: This is one of George Bernard Shaw's most frequently-performed plays and it's one of his best; a charming romantic comedy that doesn't bog down in talk. Its utterly sane arguments against the glorification of combat and war continue to make sense in a world far madder then Shaw ever knew ( although he did live through World War II ). It's City Lit's first Shaw play, directed by the capable Brian Pastor. Running through Oct. 21 at City Lit Theatre. Info/tickets:

—Sweet Charity: Big dance show, great jazzy score by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, a book by Neil Simon and a sexy Cinderella story that almost ends happily—this is one of the great mid-century Broadway musicals. Alex Sanchez is the director/choreographer with Broadway veteran Anne Horak starring as perpetual optimist Charity Hope Valentine. Whether you're a "Big Spender" or you "Love to Cry at Weddings" you might enjoy this one. Running through Oct. 28 at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire. Info/tickets: .

—The Little Foxes: Blood may be thicker than water but it ain't nearly as thick as money and power, as this famous 1939 Lillian Hellman drama proves. Almost gothic in style, with its turn-of-the-last-century Southern setting and lurid plot, it features one of the greatest women's roles in dramatic literature, the cold-blooded Regina Giddens, made famous by Tallulah Bankhead. Running Sept. 28-Oct. 28 at the Citadel Theatre, Lake Forest. Info/tickets: .

—Rock 'n' Roll: What do Pink Floyd, Vaclav Havel, Sappho and the Plastic People of the Universe ( what, you don't know them? ) have in common? Answers are in Sir Tom Stoppard's sprawling 2006 play about mid-century rock music and the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia. Spread over 30 years in two countries, it's about politics, philosophy, student-teacher relationships and the seditious influence of rock. It's a big show for the small Artistic Home ... but they've never lacked ambition. Staged by artistic director Kathy Scambiatterra. Running Oct. 3-Nov. 18 at The Artistic Home. Info/tickets: .

—Flyin' West—Pearl Cleage's frequently-produced play takes us to 1898 Nicodemus, Kansas, where Western settlers stake claims to farmland under the Homestead Act. Only these settlers are African-American women. The play is based on fact: Nicodemus was ( and still is ) a legacy of Black migration from the South following the Civil War. Cleage's language is rich, poignant and sometimes pungent. Chuck Smith, the director, is a quiet master of his craft. Running Oct. 5-Nov. 3 presented by American Blues Theater at Stage 773. Info/tickets: .

—La Boheme: Lyric Opera of Chicago has partnered with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden ( London ) and the Teatro Real Madrid to create a new production of Giacomo Puccini's romantic favorite about the starving artists of 1840s Paris, although the costumes appear ( in photos ) to be more 1890s. If you know the enchanting 19th century covered shopping arcades of Paris, you'll feel at home with this handsome new production. Running ( in repertory with other operas ) Oct. 6-Jan. 25 at the Civic Opera House. Info/tickets: .

—Gypsy: "Best damn musical I've seen in years," crowed critic Walter Kerr in 1959 responding to Arthur Laurents' masterful book, young Stephen Sondheim's witty lyrics and Jule Styne's dazzling music. Powerful E. Faye Butler is not to be missed as Mama Rose, a legendary role, as directed by Michael Weber. But here's the thing: Mama Rose was a real, historic person and she and her daughters were not African-American. Is Porchlight taking too much artistic license? Running Oct. 12-Nov. 25, Porchlight Music Theatre at the Ruth Page Center. Info/tickets:

—Hello, Dolly!: Another classic Broadway Golden Age musical arrives in October: the Tony-winning revival of Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart's Hello, Dolly!, created last year for Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce. We don't get Midler, but ain't nothin' shabby about Tony winner Betty Buckley and gifted veteran Lewis J. Stadlen. Jerry Zaks, who's won more Tony Awards than he can lift, is the director. Put on your Sunday clothes and catch this one. Running Oct. 23-Nov. 17, presented by Broadway In Chicago at the Oriental Theatre. Info/tickets: .

—110 in the Shade: This 1963 musical by Tom Jones ( not the singer ) and Harvey Schmidt, who wrote The Fantasticks, is based on The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash ( who wrote the musical's book ). It ran a modest 330 performances on Broadway and is an under-rated show with a heartfelt, lovely score, and it remains true to the original play set in 1930s rural America. BoHo's intimate productions are a perfect match for this one. Running Oct. 27-Dec. 16, presented by BoHo Theatre at Theater Wit. Info/tickets: .

—Twelfth Night: For many kids, this mostly sunny romantic comedy is their first encounter with The Bard, never mind its monumental genderfuck aspects. In a rare Shakespearean foray, Writers Theatre is sure to have fun with all aspects of this familiar play, staged by artistic director Michael Halberstam who's assembling a top cast. Running Nov. 7-Dec. 16 at Writers Theatre, Glencoe. Info/Tickets: .

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