Through 3/9 In Johnna Adams’s wrenching two-hander, the suicide of a fifth grader leads to a combative confrontation between the grieving mother and the dead boy’s teacher—just the sort of unremittingly intense scene that Profiles excels at staging.
$20. Profiles Theatre’s Alley Stage, 4147 N Broadway. profilestheatre.org
Through 3/16 Director Kimberly Senior (due to make her Broadway debut this year) teams up with leading lady Kate Fry for Ibsen’s scathing, tragic, and relentlessly unblinking look at a master manipulator struggling with middle-class malaise.
$35–$44. Writers Theatre at Tudor Court, 325 Tudor Ct, Glencoe. writerstheatre.org
The How and the Why
Through 4/6 Sarah Treem’s brainy take on genes, destiny, and the scientific mysteries surrounding menopause and menstruation centers on two brilliant biologists trying to figure out the evolutionary reasons for these two processes. Do not under any circumstances dismiss this as the stage equivalent of chick lit.
$22–$48. TimeLine Theatre, 615 W Wellington. timelinetheatre.com
In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer
2/14–3/9 At the height of the Cold War commie scare of the 1950s, the US government put physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer on trial to determine if he should retain his high-level security clearance. Taking dialogue directly from the transcripts of that hearing, playwright Heinar Kipphardt explores troubling matters of personal freedom versus public safety.
$10–$20. Saint Sebastian Players at Saint Bonaventure Church, 1625 W Diversey. saintsebastianplayers.org
The Little Prince
Through 2/2 Whimsical acrobatics augment this Rick Cummins and John Scoullar adaptation of the classic French novella about a stranded pilot and a strange young royal.
$35–$75. Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N Michigan. lookingglasstheatre.org
The Luck of the Irish
Through 2/23 Kirsten Greenidge’s drama begins in the 1950s, when an affluent African American couple hires a struggling Irish couple to pose as “ghost buyers” for a home the African American couple wants to purchase in an all-white neighborhood. Flash forward 50 years and the Irish folks claim the house is legally theirs. As Bruce Norris did in Clybourne Park, Greenidge jumps between eras to explore thorny issues of class, race, and gentrification.
$25–$40. Next Theatre, 927 Noyes, Evanston. nexttheatre.org
Through 2/23 A social worker (played by the phenomenal Mary Beth Fisher) makes a harrowing decision when she meets a pair of teenage addicts and their newborn baby in this world premiere by Rebecca Gilman (Boy Gets Girl, The Glory of Living). Robert Falls (King Lear, Measure for Measure) directs.
$25–$81. Goodman Theatre, 170 N Dearborn. goodmantheatre.org
Miss Marx, or the Involuntary Side Effect of Living
2/24–3/29 Knotty dilemmas both physical and philosophical ensue when the common-law marriage of Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl) implodes and she falls in love with a married man. Friedrich Engels, among other memorable characters, weighs in on love and gender equity.
$28. Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N Broadway. strawdogtheatre.com
Through 3/8 Teenage pregnancy, parental abandonment, substance abuse, sexual abuse, mental illness, adultery, and cattle ranching create a chorus of voices in Eric Schmiedl’s adaptation of Kent Haruf’s 2000 novel. Signal Ensemble’s self-described “resident hipster” Bries Vannon helms a script that calls for 21 actors and 36 characters.
$10–$20. Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice. signalensemble.com
The Playboy of the Western World
2/4–4/5 When John M. Synge’s troubling, poetic thriller premiered in 1907, audiences threw eggs at the stage and critics condemned the play. Today, critics consider the story of a handsome stranger whose arrival in rural County Mayo sets village tongues wagging an indisputable classic. Michael Menendian directs a near-perfect merger of eloquent language and enthralling plot.
$22–$36. Raven Theatre, 6157 N Clark. raventheatre.com
Through 2/2 An offering by F. X. Kroetz (see listing for Through the Leaves, below), this singular piece offers no plot and no dialogue as it follows (in real time) the mundane routine of a working-class woman as she comes home, prepares dinner, and goes to bed. But through this silent, seemingly conflict-free nonstory, Kroetz weaves an ultimately shocking twist. Meg Elliott takes on the challenge of the one-person show.
$15. Side Project, 1439 W Jarvis. thesideproject.net
Rites and Sacrifices
2/22–3/23 Chicago’s Jennifer L. Mickelson pens a political drama adapted from Euripides’s tale of grieving wives fighting a brutal Theban monarch for the right to bury their dead.
$15–$20. Idle Muse at Collaboraction Theatre, 1579 N Milwaukee. idlemuse.org
2/6–5/11 Break out the celebratory Stoli! Bulgarian-born Steppenwolf ensemble member Yasen Peyankov, an actor of no small talent, makes his debut as a director with playwright Erika Sheffer’s dark, twisting comedy about a Russian American family in Brooklyn whose lives are upended by a human-trafficking uncle.
$20–$65. Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted. steppenwolf.org
2/1–24 Robert Scogin, Chicago’s premier Shaw interpreter, oversees a staged reading of the fiery epic of Joan of Arc, whose visions compelled her to lead the French into battle against the English.
$15–$30. Shaw Chicago at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N Dearborn. shawchicago.org
Through 2/9 Director Ron OJ Parson. Playwright August Wilson. An ensemble that includes Tony nominee Felicia P. Fields, Allen Gilmore, Kelvin Roston Jr., and Ebony Wimbs. You don’t need to know much more to understand that this is one of February’s absolute must-sees. But for the detail oriented: Wilson’s gripping, elegiac story traces the lives of a musically gifted group of friends mourning the death of a brilliant guitarist in 1948 Pittsburgh. PS: Watch for Gilmore to deliver one of Wilson’s most vivid and shocking monologues.
$35–$65. Court Theatre, 5535 S Ellis. courttheatre.org
Sons of the Prophet
Through 3/9 Incorporating chapter headings from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, the playwright Stephen Karam creates a portrait of troubled Lebanese American brothers left to care for their ailing uncle after their father dies in a car accident.
$33–$50. American Theater Company, 1909 W Byron. atcweb.org
Through 3/1 Linda McLean penned this disturbing drama exploring the life of a woman who committed a heinous act as a child.
$20–$22. Steep Theatre, 1115 W Berwyn. steeptheatre.com
A Tale of Two Cities
2/14–4/6 Lifeline stages another sweeping epic with Elise Kauzlaric’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s tome. The complex dual-city saga follows soldiers, servants, aristocrats, and rebels in love and war as the Reign of Terror engulfs late-18th-century Paris and social upheaval roars through London. If anyone in Chicago can pull off this kind of massive literary endeavor, it’s Lifeline.
$20–$40. Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N Glenwood. lifelinetheatre.com
Three Soldiers (For Sisters)
2/22–3/23 Aaron Sawyer directs his own play, using a mix of realism and expressionism to focus on a trio of soldiers who become obsessed with Chekhov’s tragicomic Three Sisters.
$10–$20. Red Theatre at the Den Theater, 1333 N Milwaukee. redtheater.org
Through the Leaves
Through 2/2 If you’ve ever wanted to see a rabbit skinned onstage, now’s your chance. F. X. Kroetz’s drama about a 50-something butcher and her abusive lover poses the question: Can a woman who sells organ meat for a living find happiness with an insecure, sexist bully? Kroetz isn’t known for happy endings, so don’t count on it.
$15–$20. Side Project, 1439 W Jarvis. thesideproject.net
Through 2/23 Presumably Jon Jory, the play’s adapter, reined in Henry Fielding’s magnum opus (almost 350,000 words spread over 18 volumes) to a manageable length. But even if he didn’t, you should see this production because the Jeff Award winner William Brown is directing it. Samuel Ashdown leads an ensemble that features standouts Molly Glynn, Melanie Keller, and Marcus Truschinski.
$15–$75. Northlight Theatre, 9505 Skokie, Skokie. northlight.org
Through 2/9 Nina Raine’s play about a deaf man who brings his girlfriend home to meet his hearing parents gets a Chicago premiere. Austin Pendleton directs a cast that includes his fellow Steppenwolf ensemble members Alana Arenas and Francis Guinan.
$20–$82. Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N Halsted. steppenwolftheatre.org