Magazine article Variety

Original Plays Promise to 'Charm' Chicago Auds

Magazine article Variety

Original Plays Promise to 'Charm' Chicago Auds

Article excerpt

Every year, Chicago theater heats up as the weather begins to cool, but this autumn has quickly turned especially hot with highquality work, most all of it original. The likes of David Rabe, Mary Zimmerman and Broadway producer Kevin McCollum are all involved in the robust crop, and notably, the most significant work is emerging from the theaters' second, and even third, spaces.

Take, for instance, Chicago Shakespeare, where five flights up from its sold-out, illusion-infused "The Tempest," co-directed by magician Teller, the company's second stage hosts a little musical called "Ride the Cyclone" that seems likely to make a major impact.

The show, by writer-composers Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell, has producer McCollum already attached, and it surprises with just how unusual, and unusually good, it is. Six teenagers die in a freak roller-coaster accident and now exist in a sort of purgatory; by the end, one will be given the chance to return to the living. The exquisite score ranges wildly, from a high-energy pop dance number that recalls Michael Jackson to a Marlene Dietrich-ish cabaret piece. Despite the familiar types the teens represent, the writers and Chicago director Rachel Rockwell ensure that each character has an opportunity to develop into someone rich and real.

Meanwhile, at the venerable Steppenwolf's black-box Garage space, is the single biggest surprise of the season, the phenomenal new play "Charm" from Northlight Theater. Inspired by a true story, the work, by prolific Chicago writer Philip Dawkins, is about a 61-year-old transgender African-American woman who starts an etiquette class for a varied and troubled collection of teens (and adults) at the city's support center for LGBT youth. …

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