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. 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. 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”). 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.;, 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., 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


Nine Plays That Should Never Be Revived Again

‘The Fantasticks,’ ‘Godspell,’ ‘Our Town,’ ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,’ ‘Hello Dolly!,’ ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream,’ Proof,’ ‘I Just Stopped By to See the Man,’ and ‘South Pacific’

* * *

Anonymous Survey: Is the Tribune's Chris Jones Too Powerful?

Chris Jones

Photography: (Jones) Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune;
(all others) courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre Company

“Just need more than him at the Trib, with diversity!”

“Chris is an amazing advocate for Chicago theatre. He is as powerful as we choose to make him.”

“The real problem is that Chris grades on a curve. He recommends shows for which he has lowered expectations and is pleasantly surprised. He raises ours and we inevitably go and say, ‘It’s crap!’ The opposite is often true as well. He wants to be a kingmaker, always looking for the next hot thing he can say he ‘discovered.’ ”

“Preferred Christiansen.”

“Oooooh . . . I’m afraid to answer this. I guess I just answered this.”

“Readers should make up their own minds.”

* * *

What Do You Think of The Book of Mormon?

‘The Book of Mormon’

*There’s still time! The long-running musical satire closes on October 6.

* * *

Who’s Your Favorite Steppenwolf Ensemble Member?

Francis Guinan Tracy Letts Amy Morton Alana Arenas Ora Jones
1. Francis Guinan
2. Tracy Letts
3. Amy Morton
4. Alana Arenas
(tie) Ora Jones

* * *

The Best & Worst of Chicago Theatres

Best & Worst icons

Best Opening-Night Party
Goodman Theatre

Chintziest Opening-Night Party
Court Theatre


Best Bathrooms
Goodman Theatre

“I always run into people I know in there. It’s the size of a small town.”
Nick Bowling, associate artistic director, TimeLine Theatre

Worst Bathrooms
Greenhouse Theater Center


Best Lobby
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Worst Lobby
Greenhouse Theater Center


Comfiest Seats
Goodman Theatre

Least Comfy Seats
Athenaeum Theatre (upstairs)

“I need to visit a chiropractor every time I go.”
Steve Scott, associate producer, Goodman

* * *

Who Will Be the Next Big Thing?

Jessica Honor Carleton,
Brian Posen,
artistic director, Stage 773
Behzad Dabu,
Will Rogers,
associate producer, Victory Gardens
Alice Austen,
Brian Sidney Bembridge,
set designer
Ethan Deppe,
musical director
Jacqui Russell,
artistic director, Chicago Children’s Theatre


Respondents: Annabel Armour, Jenny Avery, Brian Sidney Bembridge, Nick Bowling, Jason Epperson, Henry Godinez, Hallie Gordon, Susan Haimes, Michael Halberstam, Matt Hawkins, Damon Kiely, Kristin Leahey, Bob Mason, Anthony Moseley, Brett Neveu, Doug Peck, Brian Posen, PJ Powers, Merril Prager, Bill Pullinsi, Will Rogers, Jacqui Russell, Nick Sandys, Steve Scott, Kimberly Senior, Chuck Smith, Rod Thomas, Alison C. Vesely


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