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WINTER THEATER SPECIAL Ten dramas to see this winter
by Lauren Emily Whalen

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Between February and April, here are the best dramas coming your way in Chicago. Bundle up and get out there to experience the finest in live theater, from classic Shakespeare to new works by acclaimed and emerging playwrights. It'll be worth the snowy trek!

1. Girl in the Red Corner ( Broken Nose Theatre, opens Feb. 4 ): Broken Nose is known for its accessibility ( through pay-what-you-can tickets ) and edgy, thought-provoking theater ( such as the recent hit Plainclothes ). In this Midwest premiere, Halo ( artistic director Elise Marie Davis ) takes up mixed martial arts as a way of coping with unemployment and a former abusive marriage. A complex lead female character thrust in a male-dominated world, Girl in the Red Corner is sure to stun.

2. How I Learned to Drive ( Raven Theatre, opens Feb. 7 ): In just a few weeks, Raven Theatre will tackle Paula Vogel's challenging memory play that made waves off-Broadway and later won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Eliza Staughton takes on Li'l Bit, who navigates the roads of 1960s Maryland and a troubled past that includes a problematic relationship with her Uncle Peck ( Mark Ulrich ). Vogel's words leave nothing to the imagination, and How I Learned to Drive will leave a devastating impact.

3. Twilight Bowl ( Goodman Theatre, opens Feb. 8 ): This world premiere from Goodman artistic associate Rebecca Gilman ( Boy Gets Girl; Luna Gale ) follows two small-town Wisconsin cousins embarking upon the rest of their lives in sharply contrasting ways. Sam has a scholarship to college, while Jaycee is heading down a darker path. Rising Chicago star Heather Chrisler reprises the role of Jaycee, which she originated during Goodman's 2017 New Stages Festival.

4. Pipeline ( Victory Gardens Theater, opens Feb. 9 ): Cheryl Lynn Bruce recently brought the house down at Steppenwolf, as the family matriarch in Danai Gurira's Familiar. Next, she steps into the director's chair for Victory Gardens' Pipeline. Dominique Morisseau's play is 90 minutes of intensity, as inner-city teacher Nya ( Tyla Abercrumbie ) enrolls her son Omari ( Matthew Elam ) in a tony private school—and must deal with the consequences of her choice.

5. A Doll's House, Part 2 ( Steppenwolf Theatre Company, opens Feb. 10 ): Ever wonder what happened after Nora Helmer shut the door on her marriage and family life? Playwright Lucas Hnath picks up where Henrik Ibsen left off: 15 years later, Nora is forced to ask a favor of the ones she deserted. Featuring ensemble members including Sandra Marquez as Nora and Celeste M. Cooper as Nora's now-adult daughter Emmy, this Chicago premiere will also feature a Steppenwolf first: onstage seating.

6. An Inspector Calls ( Chicago Shakespeare Theater, opens Feb. 19 ): For just a few short weeks, the National Theatre of Great Britain will bring this acclaimed dramatic thriller to Chicago Shakespeare's The Yard. From the director behind Netflix series The Crown and Billy Elliot: The Musical, comes a suspenseful story of an interrupted dinner party and the subsequent investigation into a young girl's murder. Get ready to second-guess everything you think you know.

7. Julius Caesar ( Odd's Bodkins at The Frontier, opens Feb. 22 ): What to do when your coworkers are pressuring you to murder your boss? Odd's Bodkins Theatricals, an original practices company—meaning no set and minimal lighting, to mimic the conditions of the Globe Theatre—tells the Bard's classic tale in a new way, emphasizing the play's violent political climate and featuring a diverse cast with several female actors taking traditionally male roles ( including Rebecca Janvrin as the title character ).

8. Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde ( Promethean Theatre Ensemble, opens Feb. 23 ): Writer and gay icon Oscar Wilde never had it easy and was eventually imprisoned for the crime of homosexuality. Small but mighty Promethean Theatre Ensemble follows up its Jeff-nominated production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia with a remount of its 2017 hit from playwright Moises Kaufman, in which a group of performers use past documents to take a contemporary look at a legendary life.

9. The Man Who Was Thursday ( Lifeline Theatre, opens Feb. 28 ): Based on G.K. Chesterton's 1908 novel, Lifeline's latest drama follows a group of London anarchists and the undercover officers of Scotland Yard who vow to eradicate them. When officer Gabriel finds himself deep in the organization with the code name Thursday, he begins to question everything he knows—about both parties. The revival of the 2009 Jeff-nominated production at New Leaf Theatre, The Man Who Was Thursday takes a deep dive into truth and identity.

10. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf ( Court Theatre, opens Mar. 14 ): Late last year, the theatrical world experienced a major loss with the death of groundbreaking playwright Ntozake Shange. The playwright performed in the original 1976 Broadway production of her best-known work, featuring eight women of color recounting their experiences through poetry, movement and music. Now with an added dose of poignancy, Court Theatre's production promises to be unforgettable.

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