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WINTER THEATER PREVIEW Classics and revivals abound this season
by Mary Shen Barnidge

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One advantage to 2019's abbreviated lead-up to the holidays is the number of shows that decided not to close when the mirror-ball dropped, but instead extended into 2020.

People can still catch Black Ensemble's The Other Cinderella through Jan. 19 ( ), Firebrand's Always …Patsy Cline through Jan. 5 ( ) and Theo Ubique's Working ( ) through Jan. 16. If theatergoers can wait a week or two, though, they can enjoy some bona fide classics and revivals often referenced, but rarely seen nowadays.

Can't argue with them track records

—Shear Madness, Mercury Theater, Feb. 16-March 29: Other cities may hold the record for this unabashedly silly, mostly improvised, audience-interactive murder mystery, set in a beauty salon populated by the usual suspects, but a show viewed by Windy City out-of-town guests for 18 years at the legendary Blackstone Hotel and two more in the new millennium at the Chicago Theater ( albeit in the basement ) must be doing SOMETHING right. Details: and 773-325-1700

—The Mousetrap, Court Theatre, Jan. 25-Feb. 16: The London production of Agatha Christie's murder-the-rich bunker drama—where audiences are still cautioned not to reveal the "surprise twist" ending—has been running continuously since its London premiere in 1952, but Court Theatre's staging features Hypocrites-alumnus Sean Graney, directing a cast that includes Kate Fry, Hollis Resnick and David Cerda ( wearing trousers ), ensuring a few more surprises than perhaps the author intended. Details: and 773-753-4472

Gay history will forever remember

—The Boys in the Band, Windy City Playhouse, Jan 29-April 19: Mart Crowley's pre-Stonewall portrait of gay males living in the shadows of a cosmopolitan, but still closeted, Manhattan broke new ground for the portrayal of men-who-love-men as complex individuals worthy of our empathy as they struggle to survive under social oppression and the loneliness engendered thereby. Details: and 773-891-8985

—Charley's Aunt, St. Sebastian Players, Feb 1- March 15: Everybody in Brandon Thomas' romantic farce might identify as het—it's 1892 England, after all—but when a chaperone is required to assist two pairs of lovers seeking refuge from disapproving fathers, the willingness of a best buddy to pose as the necessary nanny precipitates this prototype for cross-dressing comedy as we know it today. Details:

Singing in treble key

—Top Girls, Remy Bumppo Theatre, Jan. 19-Feb. 22: What if you could invite a conference of feminist heroes from the past to discuss gender issues over dinner? Well, that's exactly what Caryl Churchill did in 1982 in a dramatic symposium staged by Remy Bumppo to launch its season in 2001. Annabel Armour and Linda Gillum return for this revival production, directed this time by Keira Fromm. Details: and 773-975-8150

—A Doll's House, Raven Theater, Feb. 10-March 22: The woes of privileged Norwegian housewives in 1870 spurred Henrik Ibsen to propose a remedy shocking audiences of his era, but Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey and Kirsten Brandt's adaptation adds colonialist tensions to patriarchal domination to locate the source of the problem in an impulse shared by every society where idealized images eclipse imperfect reality. Details: and 773-338-2177

—Mrs. Warren's Profession, Promethean Theater Ensemble, March 2-29: No one can deny the progress of business opportunities for enterprising women since George Bernard Shaw explored the incompatibility of morality and commerce, but while it's too early to tell what new insights Melanie Spewock's adaptation will address, the topic could not be timelier. Details:

Pioneers of diversity

—Bug, Steppenwolf Theatre, Feb. 3-March 8: In 1996, Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy Letts followed up his spectacular debut with a close-up—veeery, very close-up—case study of fugitives trapped in toxic delusion. It's now 2020, though, and take-no-prisoners director David Cromer and the starpower duo of Carrie Coon and Namir Smallwood will assess whether its All-American paranoia has waned in the decades since. Details: and 312-335-1650

—Intimate Apparel, Northlight Theatre, March 20-April 19: Have you heard the one about the seamstress and the fabric ( "dry goods" in 1912 parlance ) salesman? Mildred Marie Langford and Sean Fortunato play working-class sweethearts whose hopes for a future together are undone by the unswerving bigotry—racial, religious and economical—of New England society in Lynn Nottage's bittersweet romance. Details: and 847-673-6300

—A Raisin in the Sun, Invictus Theatre, Feb. 17-March 15: An unexpected windfall prompts a Black family to dream of a better life, only to clash over the meaning of that word in Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 drama that spawned a literary genre still invoked today, and director Aaron Reese Boseman plans to show us why on the tiny Pride Arts Buena stage. Details:

—Stick Fly, Writers Theatre, Feb. 12-March 15: Lydia Diamond's portrait of an African-American family sporting Ivy League educations, high-status careers and a summer home in Martha's Vineyard reminds us that even in 2008, money and privilege alone was not enough to banish troubles rooted in the path to achievement. Details: and 847-242-6000

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