Playwrights and the theaters who showcase them are finally catching up with the times. Audiences looking to shake off the inertia of winter boredom will find a diversity of world premiere narratives on display in Chicago.
Lettie. Victory Gardens Theater at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. The struggle of an ex-convict to forge a new life as a welder in her home town, as recounted by an author named Boo Killebrew, is enough to command our attention, even without rising star Carolyn Neff's proletariat charisma. ( April 6-May 6; VictoryGardens.org )
Hollow/Wave. Silk Road Rising at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St. Though only playing two weekends, Anu Bhatt's solo show, directed by Barbara Zahora, acquaints us with the plight of South Asian female actors in Chicago attempting to pursue a career based in "empowerment through imperfection." ( May 17-27; SilkRoadRising.org )
Bad Girls: The Stylists. Akvavit Theatre at Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice Ave. Four Danish hairdressers and their customers swap opinions on how tough it is to achieve the everything that society demands of its woman these days. ( March 21-April 14; ChicagoNordic.org )
The Madres. Teatro Vista at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. An old woman defies the military juntas in 1979 Argentina to search for her desaparacida ( "disappeared" ) granddaughter, despite the obstructive counsel of a compliant chaplain and a vindictive neighbor in this rolling premiere from the National New Play Network. ( April 27-May 27; TeatroVista.org )
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Lookingglass Theatre at the Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. The company that hunted whale on the high seas last year now explores the ocean depths in David Kersner and Althos Low's page-to-stage adaptation of Jules Verne's science-fiction adventure, starring Kareem Bandealy as the mysterious Captain Nemo. ( May 26-Aug. 19; LookingglassTheatre.org )
Prometheus Bound. City Lit Theatre at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1040 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Nicholas Rudall's translation highlights the hot issues of today to be found in Aeschylus' examination of Western literature's first political prisoner, currently being marketed as a world premiere. ( May 6-June 10; CityLit.org )
The Doppelganger ( an international farce ). Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Despite our modern high-tech security measures, Nikolai Gogol's reliable government inspector is still capable of wreaking havoc and corporate intrigue in Matthew Lee Erlbach's comedy of mistaken identity. ( April 15-May 27; Steppenwolf.org )
The Light Fantastic. Jackalope Theatre at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway. Ike Holter continues his exploration of urban enigma with the fable of a would-be psychic who finds herself in above her necromantical head. ( May 15-June 16; JackalopeTheatre.org )
To Catch a Fish. Timeline Theatre at Baird Hall, 615 W. Wellington St. Ron OJ Parson directs Brett Neveu's latest report on a society where even the lowest-paid employee can't get a break from his exploitive bosses. ( May 3-July 1; TimelineTheatre.com )
Refrigerator. First Floor Theater at the Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Cryogenicists freeze your body, but IceBox & Co. can freeze your soul for all eternity in Lucas Baisch's dystopian future. ( May 16-June 9; FirstFloorTheater.com )
Don't put off your theater excursions too long. Summer will be here sooner than you think, and don't you want to be in shape for wine-and-strawberries-on-the-grass outdoor play viewing?