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SPRING THEATER PREVIEW New shows: Be around when they happen!
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times

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Year after year, half of all the shows produced in Chicago theaters are world or regional premieres. In other cities—even New York—audiences often are reluctant to see plays or playwrights unknown to them, but Chicago audiences embrace discovery and are eager to be astonished by new talent onstage or behind-the-scenes. Spring will offer 50-75 unknowns to local theatergoers. Here are 12 that look good on paper—just a small fraction of the total. They are listed by production dates, beginning with the first preview performance.

Sycamore, Raven Theatre Company ( Edgewater ), now through April 13. Midwest suburban teens Celia and Henry are more-or-less normal siblings except when they fall in love with the same boy, such as John, their new neighbor and fellow high schooler. It's a love triangle with at least one side that's pink. That's the premise of this world premiere "dramedy" by Sarah Sander, directed by rising star Devon de Mayo in her Raven Theatre debut. Tickets:

Silent Sky, First Folio Theatre ( Oakbrook ), March 29-April 30. A Midwest premiere by Lauren Gunderson, recent winner of several major national writing awards. The play's focus—appropriate for Women's History Month—is Henrietta Swan Leavitt, a little-known "computer lady" at the Harvard University observatory in the 1920s. She assisted astronomers with calculations, but was not herself allowed to access the telescope. Even so, Leavitt made ground-breaking discoveries that led the way for Dr. Edwin Hubble and all later astronomers. Melanie Keller directs. Tickets:

Linda Vista, Steppenwolf Theatre ( Lincoln Park/Old Town ), March 30-May 21. It's a world premiere by Tracy Letts, author of Killer Joe, August: Osage County ( Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award ) and Superior Donuts ( now a CBS sitcom ) among other vibrant and varied works. Nuff said. Linda Vista explores middle-age male angst through a divorced, washed-up 50-year-old who starts over. Tickets:

King of the Yees, Goodman Theatre ( The Loop ), March 31-April 30. It's a Chicago double-header for playwright Lauren Yee. Her play Hookman ( a darkly-comic take on the urban legend of the hook-handed serial killer ) is slated for Steep Theatre ( see below ), but first Goodman Theatre offers this Yee world premiere, a family comedy—perhaps autobiographical—about a San Francisco Chinese-American family with a daughter named Lauren. Tickets:

Scapegoat, New Colony Theater at The Den ( Bucktown ), April 5-May 7. Most of us already think Members of Congress worship Mammon, so it's an easy stretch to believe that some may be Satanists as well. Or is that Breitbart fake news? This world premiere by Conor McNamara concerns a powerful Senator, in line for the Supreme Court, who's accused of worshipping the Devil, a charge which threatens his family's political dynasty. Hey, it's just a play. We all know that our National Evil is in the White House. Tickets:

Into the Beautiful North, 16th Street Theater ( Berwyn ), April 13-May 20. Like Lauren Yee, wonderful Latina writer Karen Zacarias also has two overlapping Chicago productions. Her comedy about Spanish-language telenovelas, Destiny of Desire, is at the Goodman Theatre through April 16, just overlapping this world premiere, co-directed by Ann Filmer and Miguel Nunez. Into the Beautiful North is adapted from Luis Alberto Urrea's novel inspired by The Magnificent Seven, as women from a small Mexican village cross the border seeking seven good men to protect them from narco-traffickers. Tickets:

Forty-Two Stories, City Lit Theater Company ( Edgewater ), April 14-May 28. This world premiere "high-rise condo comedy" from versatile Douglas Post concerns a Lake Shore Drive condo tower where everyone has issues, tenants and staff alike. The doorman is a full-time University of Chicago student and an unknown employee steals women's underwear from apartments and ... well, you get the idea. Scott Westerman is the director. Watch out when you step into that elevator shaft. Tickets:

Hookman, Steep Theatre ( Andersonville ), April 15-May 27. It's Lauren Yee's ( see King of the Yees, above ) lethally slashing dark comedy inspired by the urban legend. Following a terrible accident, Lexi begins to see Hookman everywhere. Tickets for Hookman:

Paradise Blue, TimeLine Theatre ( Lincoln Park ), April 26-July 23. Like August Wilson's Pittsburgh-focused Century Cycle, playwright Dominique Morisseau's plays center on Detroit as it once was. This Midwest premiere is set in 1949 and concerns a legendary jazz club and the pressures ( and promises, perhaps ) of urban renewal. Ron OJ Parson directs a play described as "jazzinfused." Tickets:

Relativity, Northlight Theatre ( Skokie ), May 11-June 18. Living legend Mike Nussbaum plays Albert Einstein in this world premiere by Mark St. Germain ( Freud's Last Session ). 'Nuff said. While interviewing an aged Einstein, a reporter asks about physics and mathematics and Einstein's mysterious daughter born in 1902, and never heard of again after 1903. The child's existence wasn't known until the mid-1980s. Masterful Nussbaum must play younger to pull off Einstein: Nussbaum is in his 90s and Einstein died at 76. Northlight artistic director BJ Jones will stage the play. Tickets:

T., American Theater Company ( North Center ), May 18-June 25. Earlier this season we had a pop-rock opera about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, footnotes in the history of championship figure skating. Now we have a world premiere play about the price of glory, gold medals and rivalry. Perhaps author Dan Aibel and director Margot Bordelon—who has many Chicago credits—have a new salchow on the 1994 Harding/Kerrigan kerfuffle. Tickets:

Bright Half Life, About Face Theatre at Theater Wit ( Boys Town ), May 26-July 1. Tanya Barfield won a 2016 Lambda Literary Award for this examination of a modern lesbian relationship—is it different than other contemporary relationships?—concerned with career, family, home-making and building a life. About Face artistic associate Keira Fromm directs. Ledo. Tickets:

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