September is typically a busy month for Chicago theatre. But what makes this September stand out for me is the consistently high quality of all the shows I’ve seen over the past month. From acting to writing to overall production, nearly every play and musical I’ve attended has made an impact. Here is a snapshot of currently-playing recommendations:
A Walk in the Woods, TimeLine Theatre Company: Who’d have thought a play about nuclear arms negotiation would make for such great comedy? I know I wasn’t expecting to enjoy myself as much as I did. And TimeLine’s production is fantastic. See it. More info and tickets >>
In the Next Room or the vibrator play, Victory Gardens Theater: Excellent acting, a clever and provocative script, and a lavish physical design (Jacqueline Firkin’s period dresses, and their complex sets of underthings, are a marvel) make this show a must-see. And I dare you not to be drawn into Kate Fry’s performance — it’s touching, funny and completely human. More info and tickets >>
The Kid Thing, About Face Theatre: While this play deals with a lesbians grappling with the issues of potential parenthood, this isn’t a play that only appeals to gays — Sarah Gubbins’ highly accessible script effectively tackles some deep universal emotions — fear, self-loathing, identity issues, trust, acceptance, denial, sacrifice. It’s powerful stuff supported by very strong performances. More info and tickets >>
Putting it Together, Porchlight Music Theatre: This classy, perfectly pitched revue of Stephen Sondheim tunes features an insanely talented cast and first-rate music direction. And director Brenda Didier manages to find the heart of this show — as deliciously bitter and jaded as it might be. More info and tickets >>
Sweeney Todd, Drury Lane Oakbrook: I’ve seen some Sweeneys, and this is probably one of the finest productions I’ve seen. If you’re a fan of Stephen Sondheim or musical theatre in general, make the drive to Drury Lane and catch this large-scale production. More info and tickets >>
Urinetown, Circle Theatre: This was my first time seeing this scrappy, dirty and bitingly hilarious little musical, which grew from its fringe roots into an unexpected Broadway hit during the 2001-2002 season. So, with no prior frame of reference, I’ll just say I had a great time at Circle Theatre’s production, and the very talented cast looked like they were having just as much fun. More info and tickets >>
This list doesn’t include those shows I’ve yet to see that are generating all sorts of buzz, including Red at the Goodman Theatre, which opens to the press this week, and Clybourne Park at Steppenwolf, which has received rave reviews. And if you’re a Carrie Fisher fan, check out her one woman show, Wishful Drinking, which begins performances October 4 at the Bank of America Theater.