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WINTER THEATER SPECIAL World-premiere plays start bright and early
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2018-01-17

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It might have been the mild snows in the last few years that finally persuaded theater companies to acknowledge winter as a time for people to go out, or maybe more artists willing to rehearse through the holidays.

Whatever the reasons, what is undeniable is the number of world premieres in evidence during the months when playgoers were formerly presumed to be hibernating. Here's what you can see before the vernal equinox:

Flamingo and Decatur—Block Street Theatre Company at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Visiting theater companies aren't just housed downtown—Todd Taylor's parable of Las Vegas low-rollers traveled all the way from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to our own Belmont Avenue Theater District for its inaugural production. ( Running to Feb. 18; TheaterWit.org )

The Light—The New Colony at the Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. If the headliner at a concert has a checkered past, do you still go to his show, do you allow your boyfriend to go, or do you demand he also hate who you hate—Loy Webb offers a question for couples to ponder. ( Running to Feb. 4; TheNewColony.org )

Traitor—A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St. Brett Neveu and Michael Shannon relocate Ibsen's Enemy of the People from a spa in 1882 Norway to a charter school in 2018 Chicago, but the politics remain the same. ( Running to Feb. 25; ARedOrchidTheatre.org )

Hinter—Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn Ave. It's 1922 and the Great War is over, so how did those bodies come to be buried on a remote farm outside a small Bavarian town, and who better to solve the mystery than playwright Calamity West? ( Jan. 25-March 3; SteepTheatre.com )

Blind Date—Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. When Ronnie met Mickey—Robert Falls directs an all-star cast for Rogelio Martinez' docudrama, featuring Rob Riley as Ronald Reagan and William Dick as Mikhail Gorbachev. ( Jan. 29-Feb. 25; GoodmanTheatre.org )

Southern Gothic—Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Rd. Leslie Liautaud's "immersive" birthday party in Ashford, Georgia, invites audience members to roam the stage in the guise of guests, with David H. Bell's direction maintaining order. ( Feb. 7-March 18; WindyCityPlayhouse.com )

Surely Goodness and Mercy—Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. He's a teenage orphan boy in a foster home and she's an elderly soon-to-be invalid cafeteria lady at the school, but in Chisa Hutchinson's tender story, they find wisdom and solace in one another's companionship. ( Feb. 14-March 28; Redtwist.org )

The Burn—Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Adolescent girl-bullies and a drama-club presentation of The Crucible compound the crises in Philip Dawkins' play for the Young Adults series. ( Feb. 17-March 3; Steppenwolf.org )

Plantation—Lookingglass Theatre at the Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. Another fine old ante-bellum mansion—this one in Texas— gives up its secrets, to the dismay of its current owner. ( Feb. 21-April 22; LookingglassTheatre.org )

Pretty Woman—Broadway In Chicago at the Ford Oriental, 24 W. Randolph St. The much-retailored musical version of the 1990 movie about the corporate greedhead and his princess-for-hire irons out its kinks in a try-out stint before moving to Broadway in August. ( March 13-April 15; BroadwayInChicago.com )

Don't think that all these spanking-new shiny plays opening so early in the year means we're left with nothing but fossils for the spring. Look forward to April, when Chicago Shakespeare brings back Aaron Posner and Teller ( minus Penn ), the duo that gave us the 2015 stage-magic Tempest, to cast their spell on the Scottish Play. Double, double alakazam!


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