Letts offers a vista of middle age

 

RECOMMENDED

Viewer alert! If you’re a white, 50s-something male you might empathize with Wheeler in ‘Linda Vista,’ playwright/actor Tracy Letts’ latest  play with a middle-aged white, male protagonist. Otherwise you might wonder why this guy doesn’t move on.

Sally Murphy (Margaret) and Tim Hopper ( Paul) set Cora vander Broek (Jules) up with Ian Barford (Wheeler) at a Karaoke bar. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Sally Murphy (Margaret) and Tim Hopper ( Paul) set Cora Vander Broek (Jules) up with Ian Barford (Wheeler) at a Karaoke bar. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Unlike Arthur Przybyszewski, the 50s-something proprietor of an Uptown  Chicago donuts shop in Letts’ “Superior Donuts,” Wheeler isn’t quietly fading away.

Instead his favorite word is “f…” as he loudly rails against the current US political scene, his almost ex wife, life in Southern California, his tendency to be in humiliating situations, his lack of ability, poor personality and karaoke.

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‘Straight White Men’ offers a different view of family interaction

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In spite of the title ‘Straight White Men,’ Young Jean Lee’s play now on stage at Steppenwolf, there is more than one theme presented to the audience.

Ed (Alan Wilder) Jake (Madison Dirks), Drew (Ryan Hallahan) and Matt (Brian Slaten) in "Straight White Men" at Steppenworlf. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Ed (Alan Wilder) Jake (Madison Dirks), Drew (Ryan Hallahan) and Matt (Brian Slaten) in “Straight White Men” at Steppenworlf. Photo by Michael Brosilow

First, there is the question of what makes people uncomfortable. Before the play starts, audiences are subjected to exceedingly loud music with lyrics some might find objectionable.

However Elliott Jenetopuloes who is working on a platform for non straight white artists, and Wil Wilhelm  who has acted at Northlight and other Chicago theatres, sashay through the aisles handing out earplugs if requested.

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Midwest and World premieres in early 2017

UPCOMING SHOWS

When those New Year resolutions include taking advantage of the Chicago area’s superb theater scene, consider getting tickets to a show that is a World or Chicago Premiere.

Theatre Wit gives a clever behind-the-curtain glimpse of a play rehearsal. Theatre Wit Photo
Theatre Wit gives a clever behind-the-curtain glimpse of a play rehearsal. Theatre Wit Photo

The productions listed here are at six venues that typically do at least one new production a year and often host productions by other theater companies.

Thus they can have more than one show scheduled each month. So, while checking out the suggestions here also look at the venue’s season.

Theater seasons don’t usually coincide with a calendar year. The premieres mentioned here open by the end of March 2017.

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‘Visiting Edna’ delves into adult son to parent relationship as death looms

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The power of ‘Visiting Edna,” Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe’s play premiering at Steppenwolf Theatre, is the utter normalcy of the conversations that take place when a married son visits his terminally ill mother.

Debra Monk (Edna) and Ian Barford (Andrew) in 'Visiting Edna' at Steppenwolf Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Debra Monk (Edna) and Ian Barford (Andrew) in ‘Visiting Edna’ at Steppenwolf Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Rabe’s brilliance, projected in the superb acting of Debra Monk as Edna and Ian Barford as son Andrew, is that the drama is subtle enough to apply to almost any family and be understood and appreciated by any audience.

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Theater: Fall shows to put on the calendar

'Wonderful Life ' revival comes to Goodman Theatre this fall
‘Wonderful Town ‘ revival comes to Goodman Theatre this fall

With more than 200 theater companies in Metropolitan Chicago there’s no lack of choices in all price ranges, genres and locations. Here is a small sampling of a half-dozen shows that will be in area theaters this fall. Of course you know that ‘Hamilton,’ the mega Tony-Award winning rap musical, opens Sept. 27. But it’s an open run so you might want to check availability later in the year or 2017.

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