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The Insiders’ Guide to Theatre This Fall

Chicago surveyed 28 local drama pros. They picked 12 must-see fall shows, dished on the scene’s best and worst, and told us what they really think about the Tribune’s chief drama critic.

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Photography: (1) Sandro; (2,9) Joan Marcus; (7) Joe Mazza; (10) Michael Brosilow
 

Clockwise from left: The Wheel, Once, The Mountaintop, Cyrano de Bergerac, and The Old Man and the Old Moon

The Top 10 Shows on Stage This Season

1. The Wheel, Steppenwolf
Spanning decades and skipping across continents, Zinnie Harris’s drama asks whether people can maintain their basic decency in the face of barbarity. Tina Landau brings Joan Allen back to the Steppenwolf stage after far too long. steppenwolf.org. Through Nov. 10

“Joan Allen. Joan Allen. Joan Allen.”
Bob Mason, casting director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
 

2. Once, Broadway in Chicago
Based on a 2006 indie film, this folk-rock musical, winner of eight Tony awards, tells the tale of a melancholy Dublin busker who falls in love with a Czech piano player. Fun hook: The set is a working pub. broadwayinchicago.com. Oct. 9 to 27

“Love the movie. Love the score.”
Doug Peck, musical director
 

3. The Normal Heart, TimeLine Theatre
David Cromer plays Ned Weeks in Larry Kramer’s searing drama about the terrifying early years of the AIDS pandemic (see “Dave Cromer Returns to a Chicago Stage This Fall”). timelinetheatre.com. Oct. 26 to Dec. 22
 

4. A Raisin in the Sun, TimeLine Theatre
The seminal exploration of discrimination, real estate, and dreams deferred seems more prescient than ever. The commanding Greta Oglesby stars. timelinetheatre.com. Through Nov. 17
 

5. 4000 Miles, Northlight Theatre
Leo, a troubled 21-year-old who has biked across the country to find himself, crashes with his 91-year-old grandmother in her Greenwich Village apartment. Kimberly Senior directs this 2013 Pulitzer finalist by Amy Herzog. northlight.org. Through Oct. 20

“Lots of buzz. Hot young playwright. Sharp director.”
Henry Godinez, artistic associate, Goodman Theatre
 

6. In the Heights, Paramount Theatre
If you’ve never seen this exuberant, clear-eyed musical about life in a modern-day Dominican American section of New York’s Washington Heights, now’s the moment—the talented Rachel Rockwell directs on a replica of the Tony-nominated Broadway set. paramountaurora.com. Through Oct. 6
 

7. The Mountaintop, Court Theatre
This 90-minute two-person drama imagines what might have happened between a young hotel maid and Martin Luther King Jr. after he delivered his last major speech on April 3, 1968—the day before his assassination. courttheatre.org. Through Oct. 6
 

8. Northanger Abbey, Remy Bumppo
Life imitates art as a woman obsessed with gothic thrillers comes to believe a murder has taken place on the estate where she is a guest. Based on the novel by Jane Austen. remybumppo.org. Oct. 2 to Nov. 10
 

9. The Old Man and the Old Moon, Writers Theatre
Associate artistic director Stuart Carden collaborates with PigPen Theatre Co., a band of merry theatre makers from New York, on its inventive telling of a fable about a man, his missing wife, and the moon. Includes shadow puppetry and live folk music. writerstheatre.org. Through Nov. 10

“PigPen is superingenious, and Stuart Carden has a wonderful risk-taking sensibility.”
Anthony Moseley, artistic director, Collaboraction
 

10. Cyrano de Bergerac, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Universally praised for his portrayal of the antic monarch in CST’s The Madness of George III in 2011, Harry Groener stars as the large-nosed poet who woos by proxy. chicagoshakes.com. Through Nov. 10

 

Two More You Shouldn’t Miss

To Master the Art Karen Janes Woditsch reprises her indelible portrayal of Julia Child at the beginning of her cooking career. TimeLine Theatre at Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St.; timelinetheatre.com, broadwayinchicago.com. Through Oct. 20

An Iliad Can one man reenact Homer’s Iliad? Yes, if that man is Timothy Edward Kane. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave., courttheatre.org. Nov. 10 to Dec. 14
 

NEXT: Plays that should never be revived again, the power of Chris Jones,
opinions on The Book of Mormon, and more »

 

More in Fall Previews:
Comedy: Nick Offerman | Art: Insiders’ Guide | Art: Michelle Grabner
Theatre: Insiders’ Guide | Theatre: David Cromer | Music: Insiders’ Guide
Music: Numero Group | Music: Top 10 Shows | Classics: Blue-Chip Artists

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