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updated: 5/23/2014 4:57 PM

Theater events: Seth Bockley's 'Aunt Susan' premieres at Goodman

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Goodman premiere
Initially, things go well for the twenty-something young man moonlighting as online advice guru Aunt Susan. But as the website becomes more popular and its profits increase, problems arise for the online advice "lady" in "Ask Aunt Susan," a satire by Chicago writer/director Seth Bockley. Goodman Theatre artistic associate Henry Wishcamper directs the world premiere starring Alex Sage as Aunt Susan and Marc Grapey as his boss.
Previews begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. The show opens June 2. $10-$40. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org.

Comedy triple shot
Sample a triple shot of improvised comedy this weekend when Laugh Out Loud Theater in Schaumburg hosts three improv teams in one night.
7 p.m. Sunday, May 25, at the Streets of Woodfield, 601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg. $10. (847) 240-0386 or laughoutloudtheater.com.

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Griffin honored
The Jeff Awards Committee will recognize Griffin Theatre Company for its decades-long dedication to provocative, multigenerational theater during its non-equity Jeff Awards Ceremony next month. Over its 25-year history, Griffin has produced original works, revived rarely produced plays ("Time and the Conways," "Dead End") and adapted young adult novels. Its original 2007 production "Letters Home," comprised of missives from U.S. soldiers, and its youth-centered productions "Frindle" and "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" have played to more than 100,000 people nationwide. Co-artistic director and co-found Bill Massolia expressed the company's gratitude for the award. "It really confirms our mission and commitment to creating and presenting work that speaks to all generations," he said in a prepared statement.
The 41st annual non-equity Jeff Awards are at 7:30 p.m. June 2, at 322 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago. $40 in advance, $45 at the door. See jeffawards.org for tickets.

What's new

• Filament Theatre opens Nicola McCartney's "Lifeboat," Friday, May 23, at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. The play recounts the true story of Bess Walder and Beth Cummings who were among the 11 British evacuees who survived the crossing from Liverpool to Canada after their ship was torpedoed on Sept. 13, 1940. Artistic director Julia Ritchey directs Molly Bunder and Mara Dale in this Chicago-area premiere. (773) 270-1660 or filamenttheatre.org.

• Previews begin Saturday, May 24, for Sideshow Theatre Company's world premiere of "Tyrant," by artistic associate Kathleen Akerley. Twenty years in the future, when homeless people are required to work for the wealthy, one well-meaning philanthropist invites his workers to participate in some psychiatric studies that threaten to upend this new world order. Opens May 31, at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. (773) 975-8150 or theaterwit.org or sideshow theatre.org.

• Hell in a Handbag Productions sends up the women in prison film genre with a remount of the 2006 musical "Caged Dames," by artistic director and co-founder David Cerda. Previews begin Wednesday, May 28, at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, for the show about an innocent housewife unjustly imprisoned at the fictional Calumet City Women's Penitentiary. The show opens June 1. (773) 975-8150 or theaterwit.org or handbag productions.org.

• Composer/pianist/jazz performer Peter Saltzman's "Piano Diaries" blog, which he began in 2008, inspired the similarly titled "Piano Diaries," a theatrical piece that chronicles Saltzman's evolution as a musician and a performer in the form of imagined conversations between him and musicians like Beethoven, McCoy Tyner and Sting. Previews begin Wednesday, May 28, at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. (773) 935-6875 or athenaeumtheatre.org.

• Chicago's Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods are home to the second Pivot Arts Festival a celebration of cutting-edge theater music and dance running Wednesday, May 28, through June 14. This year's festival highlights the intersection between the arts and science. Participating artists include About Face Theatre, The Dance COLEective, Andrew Hinderaker, playwright Brett Neveu, director Chuck Smith and others. The kick off celebration begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, at Francesca's, 1039 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $15 per event. (773) 609-0782 or pivotarts.org.

• Previews begin Thursday, May 29, for Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's production of "A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters." Conceived by Fred Anzevino and director/choreographer David Heimann, the revue chronicles the career of the trio who gained popularity through their USO tours during World War II and after. Casi Maggio, Sarah Larson and Jordan Yentz star as the siblings. The show opens June 5 at No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago. (800) 595-4849 or theo-u.com.

• Performances begin Thursday, May 29, at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, for the Commedia Beauregard production of "Master Works: The Degas Plays." Its comprised of six plays inspired by Edgar Degas' paintings, among them "Dancers at Rest" and "Two Women Ironing." Performances run through June 1. (800) 838-3006 or cbtheatre.org.

• Bailiwick Chicago presents the Chicago-area premiere of the 2012 off-Broadway show "Carrie: The Musical," with a book by the original screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen and lyrics and music by Academy Award winners Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore. Inspired by Stephen King's novel, the musical centers on a high school misfit with secret powers, who's bullied by the popular kids into using those powers against them. Previews begin Thursday, May 29, at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The show opens June 1. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org or bailiwickchicago.com.

• Alone with her memories, Marilyn Monroe attempts to escape her past and discover the real person behind the persona in "Marilyn Monroe, Whoever You Are," a solo show written and performed by Amber Hargroder. Performances begin Thursday, May 29, at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. See monroeshow.com.

Short Story Theater presents an evening of storytelling Thursday, May 29, at Cellar Gate Wine Bar, 524 Sheridan Road, Highwood. Cousins Rick Leslie and Ron Levitsky read stories about their uncles and Elizabeth Brown shares her tale about negotiating a cocktail party. (847) 748-8086 or shortstory theatre.com.

"Hang Your Hat at Mr. Kelly's," a musical journey chronicling the famed Rush Street supper club that welcomed such performers as Barbra Streisand, Jackie Wilson and Ella Fitzgerald, continues through May 24, at the Berger Park Coach House Theater, 6205 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago. (312) 970-9840 or threecatproductions.com.

• Lookingglass Theatre has extended its world premiere production "In the Garden: A Darwinian Love Story," artistic associate Sara Gmitter's drama about the unlikely romance between evolution champion Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgewood, a woman of faith. Performances continue through June 29 at Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. (312) 337-0665 or lookingglasstheatre.org.

• Writers Theatre has extended its production of "The Dance of Death," Conor McPherson's adaptation of the August Strindberg play about a crumbling marriage and its venomous partners who "face off in a battle of wills." Performances continue through Aug. 3 at Books on Vernon, 664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe. (847) 242-6000 or writerstheatre.org.

• Broadway in Chicago announced the five finalists for its 2014 emerging theater award. Established eight years ago, the award recognizes up and coming theater -- operating between three and seven years -- that has demonstrated artistic excellence and responsible management. The finalists include: Filament, Jackalope, Oracle, Pavement Group and Sideshow theaters. The winning ensemble receives $5,000; marketing and advertising support and BIC consultation. Broadway in Chicago will announce the awards June 9 at the annual League of Chicago Theatre's gala. See chicagoplays.com.

• A Red Orchid Theatre devotes its 22nd season to premieres, beginning October 23, with the U.S. premiere of Irish playwright Abbie Spallen's "Strandline," about three women in a small Northern Ireland village reluctantly joining a fourth in mourning the death of her husband. Ensemble member Shade Murray directs the Chicago premiere of "Accidentally Like a Martyr" (Jan. 15-March 1, 2015). Grant James Varjas' play examines a group of regulars who patronize a dive, gay bar on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The company's 2014-2015 season concludes with the Chicago premiere of Ethan Lipton's "Red Handed Otter" (April 9-May 24, 2015) about a security guard whose work buddies try to cheer him up after he loses he girlfriend. Performances take place at 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago. Three-show Flashpasses are $80 and include three tickets to use any way during the season. Three-show Red Night Flashpasses are $130 and include three tickets to opening night performances and post show receptions. Subscriptions are available by phone at (312) 943-8722 or online at aredorchidtheatre.org.

• First Floor Theater opens its 2014-2015 season with "Matt & Ben" (Nov. 16-Dec. 13), Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers' sendup of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's attempts to get "Good Will Hunting" produced. Next up is the Chicago premiere of A. Rey Pamatmat's "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" (Feb. 15-March 2, 2015), about two adolescent siblings left alone with a new friend and a BB gun after their mother dies and their dad disappears. First Floor's season concludes April 17, 2015, with the world premiere of artistic associate Emmett Rensin's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" about a group of Tea Party staffers trying to figure out who among them leaked information that is sinking their candidate's senatorial campaign. Performances take place at the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. See firstfloortheater.com.

• Signal Ensemble Theatre member Jon Steinhagen's latest, "Devil's Day Off" opens the company's 2014-2015 season on October 16. Set during a record-breaking heat wave and power outage, "Devil's Day Off" consists of 50 mini-plays featuring 100 characters reacting to the emergency. That's followed by the U.S. premiere of Brett Neveu's "Red Bud" (Jan. 22-Feb. 28, 2015), about a group of forty-something friends whose emotional baggage gets unpacked during their annual trip to a championship motocross race. The season concludes with the Chicago premiere of "The Drowning Girls" (April 30-June 6, 2015), Beth Graham, Daniela Vlaskalic and Charlie Tomlinson's drama about the three dead wives of George Joseph Smith who "surface in the bathtubs they were drowned in ... (to) gather evidence against their womanizing, murderous husband." Performances take place at 1802 W. Berenice Ave., Chicago. Season subscriptions available at 20 percent off the regular ticket price. See signalensemble.com.

• Black Ensemble Theater's world premiere "One Hit Wonders," showcasing R&B hits from the 1960s through the 1990s, inaugurated its 2014 season earlier this month. The season continues July 20, with the world premiere of Reginald Williams "The Story of the Marvelettes," the hit girl group that preceded The Supremes. The season concludes October 26, with "At Last: A Tribute to Etta James," written and directed by BET founder and artistic director Jackie Taylor, and featuring 15 of James' biggest hits. Performances take place at 4450 N. Clark St., Chicago. A complimentary ticket to BET's New Year's Eve celebration is available to anyone who purchases tickets to all three of the season's remaining shows. Tickets available by phone at (773) 769-4451 or at blackensemble.org.

• Pride Films and Plays recently named "Gentle Passage" as the winner of the 2014 Great Gay Play and Musical Contest. Paul Elliott's two-person drama was inspired by the childhood trauma his husband experienced.

• A Red Orchid Theatre announced the off-Broadway transfer of ensemble member Brett Neveu's world premiere "The Opponent" about a Baton Rouge gym owner/trainer who takes under his wing an up-and-coming young fighter. Karen Kessler returns to direct the show which runs July 31, to September 7, at 59E59 Theatre in New York. Kamal Angelo Bolden and Guy Van Swearingen will reprise the roles they originated in 2012. See aredorchidnyc.org.

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