Court Theatre is set to resume live productions in the fall. Hyde Park's renowned professional theater won't be picking up exactly where it left off before the pandemic, but the new three-play season does include shows that had been on the schedule.
“Classic plays continue to speak to our current moment, and our 2021/22 season investigates themes of race, gender and activism at a time when these topics couldn’t be more of the moment,” explained artistic director Charles Newell in a press release. “As we transition out of the pandemic, it is my hope that each play...keeps these issues front-of-mind for audiences.”
Newell said that the lineup is being limited to three plays with “safety and caution” in mind. The gradual return to the subscription season also allows for “an intimate, extended run” of the opening play and possible extensions of the other two. “We're excited to use this time to plan new and exciting ways to further engage our patrons offstage,” he added.
First up, October 7 to November 21, is Shakespeare's “The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice,” which originally had been slated to close the 2020/2021 season. Co-directed by Newell and Gabrielle Randle-Bent, the play stars Kelvin Roston, Jr. ( Oedipus in Court's “Oedipus Rex” and the title character in “King Hedley II”) as the noble general betrayed by his closest confidant and undone by his own jealousy, as well as a suspicious society.
The scenic design is intended to place audiences in the middle of the action, enhancing how the complex notions of race, gender and complicity at the heart of the sinister events speak to a world on the brink of change. A digital version will be available to stream on-demand, in addition to live performances.
Next is Henrik Ibsen's “The Lady from the Sea” in a new translation by playwright Richard Nelson. Ready to open when COVID-19 forced all the theaters to close in March 2020, it now runs from February 3 to March 6, 2022.
Shana Cooper returns to direct and Chaon Cross (“Photograph 51,” “The Hard Problem”) to star in the tale of a lighthouse keeper's daughter torn between her landlocked marriage and the allure of the sea when a sailor returns to fulfill a promise. The play examines conflicts of duty and relationships with raw emotion, and Cooper and the cast are expected to bring it to life with visceral theatricality.
Rounding out the season, May 12 to June 12, 2022, is August Wilson's “Two Trains Running,” which initially was supposed to be the opener. With his typical wit and insight, resident artist Ron OJ Parson directs the penultimate play in Court’s ongoing commitment to staging all of Wilson’s American Century Cycle.
Set in Pittsburgh's Hill District during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, “Two Trains” centers on Memphis Lee's diner, which is slated for demolition. As he attempts to sell it for a fair price, the regulars search for work, love and justice in a neighborhood that continues to change in unexpected ways.
For tickets and subscriptions ($96-$204; student discounts available), call the Court Theatre Box Office at 773-753-4472, or visit CourtTheatre.org.
Court isn't the only theater making a comeback, of course, Live shows are going to be popping up all over town, arguably sooner than anyone thought.
Of those that have set opening dates, the first is Teatro ZinZanni, the immersive mix of dining and entertainment — circus acts, music, comedy — that bows in July 8 in the Spiegeltent ZaZou on the 14th floor in the Cambria Hotel Chicago in the Loop. The acts are mostly new except for The Caesar Frank Ferrante and clown and co-director Joe De Paul.
The Paramount Theatre in Aurora gets into the act August 18 to October 17 with the first regional production of “Kinky Boots,” and if it's like their other musicals, the quality should be top-notch.
Back downtown, one musical to look forward to is “Six” at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place from October 5 to January 30, 2022. As anyone who saw this hip tribute to the wives of Henry VIII at Chicago Shakespeare knows, it's a blast.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company kicks off the season with a first in its 45-year history: All the plays are by ensemble members. In this case, it's a revival of Tracy Letts' deeply disturbing “Bug” November 11 to December 12 in the downstairs theater. Director David Cromer reunites with ensemble members Randall Arney, Carrie Coon and Namir Smallwood and actors Jennifer Engstrom and Steve Key for the black comedy about love, paranoia and government conspiracies. It is set in a seedy Oklahoma hotel room, and the scene changes alone are worth the price of admission.
Up at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Bethany Thomas takes the stage in Joanna Murray-Smith's solo “Songs for Nobodies” September 23 to October 31. Directed by Rob Lindley, with music direction by Andra Velis Simon, she'll celebrate the iconic work of Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas with favorites like “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Crazy” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.”
This is just to whet your appetite for what's to come. We'll have more as things develop, and frankly, I can't wait.