A scene from 'Farragut North'
GUT INSTINCT Need a reminder of how heated election season can get? See Stage
Left’s Farragut North at Theater Wit.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 08.31.11 through Tue 09.06.11: Spending Labor Day in Chicago? Get a jump on fall theatre season with our top five theatre picks. Plus, Tanya Saracho’s weekend plans and a cheat sheet to Chicago Jazz Festival.


theatre Farragut North
Let the election season skullduggery begin! Beau Willimon’s sordid drama follows a wunderkind press secretary through a presidential race that’s tighter than a sausage casing and that, like sausage, gets a little creepy when inspected too closely.
GO: Previews 9/3–7; $12. Run continues through 10/9; $25. Stage Left Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont. stagelefttheatre.com


theatre The Kid Thing
Sarah Gubbins’s play about two lesbian couples negotiating the ins and outs of sperm donors and planned parenthood is funny, sad, supersmart, and—in its frank exploration of being butch in a world of rigid gender roles—fearless. Gay, straight, pan, or asexual, this is a play for all.
GO: Previews 9/1–8; $20. Run continues through 10/16; $32. About Face Theatre with Chicago Dramatists at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W Chicago. chicagodramatists.org


theatre Waiting for Lefty
Rather like Godot, Lefty is a no-show (don’t worry; that doesn’t give away the ending) in this drama about NYC taxi drivers awaiting his leadership during a historic 1930s labor strike. Kimberly Senior directs Clifford Odets’s manifesto.
GO: Previews 9/2–4. Run continues through 10/2. Most tickets $25; $15 through 9/12 with the code word “unite.” Performance 9/5 at 7 is free; reservations required: jills@americanbluestheater.com. American Blues Theater at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N Lincoln. americanbluestheater.com


theatre Sweeney Todd
Why is Sondheim’s masterpiece so rarely produced? We’ve heard many an actor theorize that the tale is a commercial risk and that most local producers would rather play it safe with fluffier fare, such as Nunsense. To which we say, “Nonsense.” Sweeney’s score is gorgeous; the story is bloody fine; and the musical’s antihero? As Sondheim notes in that final haunting epilogue: We are all Sweeney. (Need a little more reassurance before hiking to the western burbs? Chris Jones gives the production 3.5 out of 4 stars.)
GO: Run continues through 10/9. Most tickets $29–$46; dinner extra. Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury, Oakbrook Terrace. www.drurylaneoakbrook.com


theatre Chicago Fringe Festival
The obvious question: With 200-plus Off-Loop theatre companies in town, isn’t every day Fringe Fest? Yes. But! This incarnation convenes 50 groups and hundreds of performers in one neighborhood for a budget $10 per show. That’s so fringe, you should wear your moccasins.
GO: 9/1–11. Five shows for $45, ten for $80, all-fest pass $175. Performances take place throughout East Pilsen. Full schedule and locations: chicagofringe.org


Playwright-actor-director Tanya Saracho
Tanya Saracho

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals—a.k.a. people we like: the Mexican-born, Chicago-based playwright-actor-director Tanya Saracho, an emeritus playwright-in-residence at Chicago Dramatists, an artistic associate at About Face Theatre, and our 2010 pick for best new playwright.

“I watch a lot of theatre, so my weekends are mostly taken up with that—I mean this is Chicago, the Theatre Capital of America—and this weekend I’m catching the much awaited (by me) About Face/Chicago Dramatists coproduction of Sarah Gubbins’s The Kid Thing at Dramatists. I saw a reading of this at [Steppenwolf’s] First Look last year and was blown away, so I can’t wait.

“I’m also going to watch Corazón de Manzana by Dana Lynn Formby at the DCA. I’m a border girl, and this is a play that deals with the crisis endangering the women of the border town of Juárez. Looking forward to the dialogue this piece will engender.

“Also—and this is a must-see every weekend, but this weekend it promises to be particularly awesome—on Saturday I’m heading over to Chris Piatt’s live magazine Paper Machete. He scored Julia Sweeney for this show, along with my new favorite playwright, Philip Dawkins, who recently hit it out of the ballpark with The Homosexuals, and one of my favorite Chicago actors, Michael Patrick Thornton. Piatt puts together these amazing lineups of original—what would you call them?—narrative/commentary/essays/solos? I don’t know, but it’s always the best thing you can do on a Saturday afternoon.

“And finally, in something that has become a bit of a tradition for me, I’m throwing a picnic on Montrose Beach on Monday with a few of my closest Facebook friends. Or whoever happened to catch that update where I posted, "Wanna come to a picnic on Labor Day?" That lake is our crown jewel, and I like to bid a "see you next year" to the summer right on the beach, with some cold drinks and arrachera and deviled eggs and a million desserts—because you know that’s mostly what people show up with: dessert. That’s OK. There’s nothing like a picnic in Chicago.”


jazz Chicago Jazz Festival
Jazz fans were understandably nervous earlier this year when the bean counters came gunning for the city’s “unprofitable” music fests, eventually relegating several unlucky also-rans to single-day gigs at Taste of Chicago. But CJF’s 33rd edition doesn’t miss a downbeat. Highlights include the pianist Randy Weston and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble playing African-inspired arrangements by Weston’s longtime collaborator, the trombonist Melba Liston (9/1 at 6:30 in Millennium Park); the trumpeter and 2011 CJF artist-in-residence Orbert Davis (9/2 at 5 in Roosevelt U’s Ganz Hall); a bumping double bill with the guitarist Bobby Broom and the Deep Blue Organ Trio (9/2 at 6:30), with a saxophone summit, featuring Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, and Dave Liebman, later that night (at 8; both in Millennium Park); the mesmerizing singer Cassandra Wilson (9/3 at 8:30 in Grant Park); a new lineup from the prolific drummer and bandleader Mike Reed (9/4 at 5) followed by the top-flight saxophonist David Sánchez and the vibraphonist Stefon Harris playing from their recent collaboration, Ninety Miles (at 7:10); and a closing set with the rock-solid trumpeter Roy Hargrove (at 8:30; all 9/4 programs in Grant Park).
GO: 9/1–4. Full schedule: jazzinchicago.org/jazzfest


Photography: (FARRAGUT NORTH) Johnny Knight; (SARACHO) Braden Moran