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posted: 5/2/2014 6:00 AM

Theater events: Northlight revives Simon's 'Lost in Yonkers'

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  • Nori Sawa's "Fairy Tales" returns to the annual International Children's Theater Festival. Sawa, originally from Japan, uses puppets, masks and more to tell stories.

      Nori Sawa's "Fairy Tales" returns to the annual International Children's Theater Festival. Sawa, originally from Japan, uses puppets, masks and more to tell stories.
    Courtesy of Olga Sorokina

 
 

Laughs in 'Yonkers'
Northlight Theatre's former director of education Devon de Mayo returns to direct "Lost in Yonkers," Neil Simon's comedy about a pair of brothers sent to live with their cranky grandmother, kindly aunt and hoodlum uncle during the summer of 1942. Northlight veteran Ann Whitney plays Grandma Kurnitz opposite Northlight newcomers Alistair Sewell and Sebastian W. Weigman as young brothers Jay and Arty.
Previews begin at 8 p.m. Friday, May 2, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. The show opens May 9. $25-$75. (847) 673-6300 or northlight.org.

Better 'Days'
A frustrated young woman insists that she's through with love. That is until a handsome young stranger makes her reconsider in "Days Like Today," a new musical by composer/lyricist Alan Schmuckler ("How Can You Run With a Shell on Your Back?") and writer Laura Eason ("Sex With Strangers"). Writers Theatre artistic director Michael Halberstam directs while Doug Peck serves as music director for this world premiere.
Previews begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. The show opens May 22. $35-$75. (847) 242-6000 or writerstheatre.org.

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'M. Butterfly' revived
Sean Fortunato stars as a sheltered civil servant and Nate Braga stars as the exotic Chinese diva who transfixes him in "M. Butterfly," David Henry Hwang's award-winning examination of the East-West political divide. Court Theatre artistic director Charles Newell directs the company's revival, about a man who refuses to accept reality.
Previews begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 8, at 5535 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago. The show opens May 17. $35-$65. (773) 753-4472 or courttheatre.org.

What's new
• Chris Lemmon pays tribute to his father, Academy Award-winning actor and quintessential film everyman Jack Lemmon, in the one-man show "Jack Lemmon Returns." Written and directed by Hershey Felder, the play with music examines the senior Lemmon's life and his relationship with his actor son. Previews begin Friday, May 2, at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago. The show opens May 12. (312) 988-9000 or theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.

• Lucky Plush Productions premieres the vaudeville-inspired "The Queue," a dance and theater piece by choreographer/director Julia Roads and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, with music by the piano-drum duo, "The Claudettes (Michael Caskey and Johnny Iguana). Set in a fictional airport, "The Queue" is adapted from an 18th century farce in which the imminent death of an old man prompts assorted characters to claim their potential inheritances. Performances begin Friday, May 2, at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago. (773) 281-0824 or linkshall.org or luckyplush.com.

• The sketch comedy group Robot vs. Dinosaur premiere its mash-up musical "Attack at Bikini Werewolf Beach: Part 2" pairing beach party and monster films. The show, about pals whose plans for a summer of fun are thwarted by crass industrialists, opens Friday, May 5, at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. (773) 360-7330 or rvdchicago.blogspot.com.

• Puppets, music and dance combine in Mary Zimmerman's latest theatrical adaptation of the Chinese fable "The White Snake." It's about a girl (Amy Kim Waschke) who is actually a white serpent, who falls in love with a boy (Jon Norman Schneider) to the chagrin of a monk (Matt DeCaro) who does his best to keep them apart. Previews begin Saturday, May 3, at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. The show opens May 11. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org.

• Li'l Buds Theatre Company presents its original adaptation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass." Written by ensemble member Jenny Lamb, the company's "Alice in Wonderland" is performed by eight actors who chronicle Alice's journey and the lessons she learns from her adventures. The one-hour show opens Saturday, May 3, at the Unity Lutheran Church, 1212 W. Balmoral Ave., Chicago. See lilbudstheatre.org or brownpapertickets.com.

• The 25th annual Chicago's Biggest Liar Contest takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at the United Church of Christ, 2050 W. Pensacola, Chicago. Eleven storytellers will participate in the tall tale competition. Judges and audience members will determine the winner. See chicagoliars.com.

• Steppenwolf Theatre Company hosts its annual benefit gala beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Ensemble co-founder Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band will perform at the event, which features cocktails, dinner and dancing. Tickets start at $1,000. Proceeds benefit the company's artistic, educational and community programming. (312) 654-5632 or specialevents@steppenwolf.org.

• Victory Gardens Theater hosts its fourth annual Chicago One-Minute Play Festival from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 4, and Monday, May 5, at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The festival features 60-second plays by 60 area playwrights, including: Jon Steinhagen, David Cerda, Brooke Allen, Calamity West, Bilal Dardai, Lonnie Carter, Nambi E. Kelley and Dan Caffrey among others. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org.

• The Dead Writers Theatre Collective hosts a lecture/demonstration prior to its Sunday, May 4, production of Jane Austen's "Emma" at Stege 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, titled Estimating Lace and Muslin: Dress and Fashion in Jane Austen and Her World." Dramaturg and Art Institute of Chicago lecturer Jeffrey A. Nigro hosts the 1:30 p.m. lecture on 19th century fashion, the role it played in Austen's work, and the impact the authentic costumes have on the Collective's actors. (773) 327-5252 or deadwriters.net.

• Performances begin Monday, May 5, for Genesis Theatrical Productions' Chicago area premiere of a double bill featuring plays by Stephanie Liss. "Daughter of My People" chronicles the life of Henrietta Szold, founder of the Jewish women's organization Hadassah. "Jihad" examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of two mothers: one living in an Israeli settlement and the other in a Palestinian-controlled area. Performances continue through May 11, at National Pastime Theater, at the Preston Bradley Cooper Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago. (800) 8383006, ext. 1 or genesistheatricals.com.

• American Blues Theater presents the 2014 edition of Ripped: The Living Newspaper Festival at 7 p.m. Monday, May 5, at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. This ABT fundraiser features playwrights, directors and actors producing short works inspired by current headlines. Participants include writers Kristoffer Diaz, Brett Neveu, Joshua Rollins, Gloria Bond Clunie and James Sherman, among others; directors Russ Tutterow, Andi Dymond and Dennis Zacek among others and actors Kate Buddeke, Lance Baker, Jim Leaming, Sarah Ross and Randy Steinmeyer among others. Admission is $10 and includes food and beverages. (312) 725-4228 or americanbluestheater.com.

• A father's decision to shave his mustache upends a pair of siblings in "The Sister Twins," a comedy by Stephen Webb, first workshopped last fall in New York City. Transcendent Ensemble Theatre Company's production marks the company's Chicago debut. Performances begin Monday, May 5, at The Parlor, 1434 N. Western Ave., Chicago. See facebook.com/transcendentensembletheatreco.

• Writer/performer Ian Belknap, poet/actress Shannon Matesky and comedian Angela Vela are among the performers participating in "The LitMash," an event combining poetry, comedy and storytelling that takes place at 8 p.m. Monday, May 5, at Haymarket Pub and Brewery, 737 W. Randolph St., Chicago. See chicagoslamworks.com.

• Michael Urie ("Ugly Betty") stars in Jonathan Tolins' one-man show "Buyer & Cellar" about a struggling actor who gets a job working in Barbra Streisand's basement. Performances begin Tuesday, May 6, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.

"Vieux Carre," an autobiographical play by Tennessee Williams about a young writer who moves into a rundown French Quarter rooming house that houses an array of quirky, desperate characters, begins previews Tuesday, May 6, at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago. Ty Olwin plays The Writer in this revival directed by ensemble member Cody Estle. The show opens May 12. (773) 338-2177 or raventheatre.com.

• The Chicago Humanities Festival celebrates international children's theater during its 2014 Stages Sights & Sounds festival, running Tuesday, May 6 through May 24, in Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St.; the Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St.: and Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. The festival includes productions from Spain and Australia; readings with children's authors and puppet performances featuring Michael Montenegro, Blair Thomas, Sea Beast and others. (312) 494-9509 or chicagohumanities.org/stages.

• Previews begin Wednesday, May 7, for Provision Theater's world premiere of "Jacob." Written by artistic director Timothy Gregory and codirected by Gregory and ensemble member Lia Mortensen, it's inspired by the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with God. This version unfolds among the members of a wealthy Chicago family torn apart by internal rivalry. The play opens Saturday, May 10, at 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago. (312) 455-0066 or provisiontheater.org.

• Theatre Y ensemble member Kevin V. Smith directs the company's production of Euripides' "Medea," adapted by poet Robinson Jeffers and featuring Melissa Lorraine as Medea and Carlo Lorenzo Garcia as Jason. Theatre Y's re-imagining of the tragedy contrasts a couple going through a divorce, with girls preparing for prom. The show opens Wednesday, May 7, at St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square, 2649 N. Francisco Ave., Chicago. (708) 209-0183 or theatre-y.com.

• Interrobang Theatre Project concludes its season with the world premiere of "The Doll's House Project: Ibsen is Dead" by Calamity West. Inspired by Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House," this examination of class, gender, love and lies is set in 1989, as the Berlin Wall is coming down. A husband learns of the event reading the paper over breakfast, while his wife hears about it while shopping. An old friend watches the events on a TV in a Manhattan department store and a doctor sleeps through it all in this production directed by co-artistic director James Yost. Previews begin Thursday, May 8, at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The show opens May 10. (773) 935-6875 or interrobangtheatreproject.org or athenaeumtheatre.org.

• Alexandra Bennett plays a renowned professor and expert in the life-and-death themes of John Donne's Holy Sonnets, who reconsiders her life and work as she undergoes treatment for stage IV ovarian cancer in Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Wit." AstonRep Theatre Company ensemble member Derek Bertelsen directs the company's revival which begins previews Thursday, May 8, at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago. The show opens May 10. (773) 828-9129 or astonrep.com.

• Artemisia presents a staged reading of "Chewing on Beckett," a "female riff" on "Waiting for Godot" by Ed Proudfoot and directed by Goodman Theatre's Steve Scott. In the play Eloise and Viola (Vladimir and Estragon) are visited by cannibals and an old woman while they attempt to reconstruct Eloise's forgotten past as a scholar of Beckett. Performances are at 8 p.m. May 8 and 9; and at 2 and 8 p.m. May 10, at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, 925 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago. See artemisiathatre.org.

• A Red Orchid Theatre has extended its production of Marisa Wegrzyn's "Mud Blue Sky," about a high school pot dealer who skips his prom to spend the evening with three older flight attendants. Performances continue through June 29, at 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago. (312) 943-8722 or aredorchidtheatre.org.

"Motown the Musical" doesn't officially open its national tour until Thursday, May 8, at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. But producers have extended by four weeks the run of this show about the Motown founder Berry Gordy and the superstars whose careers he guided. Performances continue through Aug. 9. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.

• Kokandy Productions begins its 2015 season on March 2, 2015, with "The Full Monty," the Terrence McNally/David Yazbek musical about unemployed male steelworkers who take up stripping to feed their families. That's followed by "Loving Repeating," a chamber musical about the life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, using Stein's words as lyrics. "If 2014 is Kokandy's "season of cynicism" ... then 2015 will be our "season of hope," an exploration of the human capacity to create and redefine beauty," said co-artistic director Allison Hendrix in a prepared statement. Performances take place at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. See kokandyproductions.com for ticket information.

• For its fifth season, Interrobang Theatre Project showcases playwrights Caryl Churchill and Paul Downs Colaizzo. The season begins Oct. 2, with Churchill's 1972 comedy "Owners" about a realtor so driven she doesn't notice her husband wants her dead, and who does whatever it takes to make a killing in real estate. That's followed by the Midwest premiere of Colaizzo's "Really Really" (Feb. 13-March 15, 2015), about the ugly gossip that surfaces about two students after a wild college party. Performances take place at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. (773) 935-6875 or athenaeumtheatre.org or interrobangtheatreproject.org.

• The House Theatre of Chicago opens its 2014-2015 season Sept. 12, with "Season on the Line," Shawn Pfautsch's adaptation of Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick." Melville's crew is transformed into the Bad Settlement Theatre Company saddled with a rundown theater, aging artistic director and shrinking finances whose make-or-break season depends upon a perfect production of "Moby-Dick." The company follows that with its annual production of "The Nutcracker" beginning Nov. 7. Performances begin Feb. 21, 2015 for The Hammer Trinity, whose three parts will run in repertory through May 4, 2015. The trilogy begins with "The Iron Stag King" about Casper, the son of a poor farmer, who learns he is heir to the crown. That's followed by "The Crownless King" in which Casper takes his rightful place as ruler but finds his country besieged. The trilogy concludes with "The Excelsior King," in which the land descends into civil war after King Casper goes missing. Performances take place at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago. See thehousetheatre.com for ticket information.

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