Krista Krauss Miller is the chef concierge at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, a member of the Chicago Hotel Concierge Association, a native Chicagoan and a local theater artist. She is also a member of the League of Chicago Theatres’ Young Professionals Circle. Her mission is to support awareness of Chicago’s unique local theatre scene. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
October is one of the best times to visit Chicago. The weather is gorgeous, the leaves are changing, the humidity is gone, and the breeze off the lake is just cool enough to make you cuddle up in your favorite sweater. If the beautiful weather and Cubs post-season baseball isn’t reason enough to come visit, the beginning of the 2015/2016 theater season should be. Read on to find out more about the season openers from some of my favorite Chicago theaters, plus a bonus from a brand new theater with a world premiere production.
“American Idiot” presented by The Hypocrites at The Den Theatre
Runs through Oct. 25
Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m
Recommended for ages 17 and up.
1329-1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Green Day’s punk rock opera featuring the music from their 2004 Grammy Award-winning album took Broadway by storm in 2010. Subsequent touring Broadway productions have visited Chicago in the years since, but the Hypocrites storefront production under the direction of Steven Wilson with musical direction by Andra Velis Simon now in performances at the Den Theatre should not be missed. This is one of those shows that begs to be done on a storefront stage, where the infectious energy of the performance envelops the audience. “American Idiot” follows three teenage friends, Johnny, Will, and Tunny. Full of teenage angst and a desire for something more, the three seek escape from Suburbia. While Johnny and Tunny escape to the city, Will stays at home after his girlfriend reveals that she is pregnant. Each follows their own path, but they end up right back where they started not long after. The production transports you back to your angst-ridden teenage years when your hopes and dreams meet the reality of the present, and the consequent frustration seems insurmountable. The struggle between your bright aspirations and the feeling that you’re doomed to the circumstances you’re born into is a situation that most people can empathize with as many of us have had this same experience in our lives. Not to mention, the tremendous talent of the cast who each sing, perform, and play various instruments interchangeably is a marvel to watch. “American Idiot” is the perfect opening to the theater’s 19th season as its the Hypocrites doing what they do best: shattering the boring-night-at-the-theater stereotype and embracing younger audiences through compelling, engaging theater. If you don’t want to be an American Idiot, you should go check out this show.
“Assassination Theater” at the Museum of Broadcast Journalism
Runs through Nov. 7
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Recommended for ages 14 and up
360 N. State St.
Though the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy and acted alone in the shooting, the full story is shrouded in a mystery that still perplexes the American people. There are many conspiracy theories associated with the assassination, but none quite as persuasive as “Assassination Theater.” You might think you have heard all the theories, but you haven’t heard this one. Investigative reporter and playwright Hillel Levin offers an incredible look into the great American mystery surrounding the assassination plot and the consequent cover up. With the help of Zechariah Shelton, an ex-FBI agent, the two pool together decades of information gathering into one concise and compelling night of theater. The two men who gathered the story, along with the historical characters, are portrayed onstage by actors accompanied with a multitude of projections. “Assassination Theater” also highlights the Chicago mob connection to JFK’s death, making Chicago and the Museum of Broadcast Journalism the perfect backdrop to this world premier show.
“Side Show” presented by Porchlight Music Theatre at Stage 773
Runs through Oct. 25
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Recommended for ages 10 and up
1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Porchlight Music Theatre’s “Side Show” now in production at Stage 773 transports us back to vaudeville and early Hollywood, revealing both the glamorous and grimy sides of show business. “Side Show,” winningly directed by Michael Weber featuring beautiful music direction by Aaron Benham and spot-on choreography by Andrew Waters, is based on the lives of the famous conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. The girls were born in England in 1908 in the back of a pub. Horrified by their abnormality, their mother sold them at birth. Throughout their young lives the girls were effectively held captive by their various guardians who used the twins as the main event in a sideshow act full of freaks. Their show eventually lands in America in the 1920s, and the girls find their own voice. The talented and beautiful twins sue their manager for freedom and win. Though their conditions would have made most people terribly depressed, the girls maintain a sparkling positivity and optimism that draws you into the story and makes you root for them until the very end. As outsiders, the girls struggle between wanting to be normal and capitalizing on their unique situation. After the trial, the girls become stars on the vaudeville stage; they lead glamorous lives and even fall in love. You hope that the girls have finally found happiness, however not all is as it seems. Despite their ups and downs, the girls always maintain their commendable optimism and find solace in each other.
“East of Eden” at Steppenwolf Theatre
Runs through Nov. 16
Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m.
1650 N. Halsted St.
Steppenwolf Theatre opens its 40th anniversary season with the world premier adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” adapted by Tony Award-winner and ensemble member Frank Galati and directed by Steppenwolf co-founder Terry Kinney. “East of Eden” follows Adam and Cathy Trask as they move from Connecticut to a farm in California’s Salinas Valley. Unable to escape the draw of her past life, Cathy heartlessly leaves Adam as soon as their twin boys, Caleb and Aron, are born. Full of heartache and melancholy, Adam is left to raise the boys on his own, telling them their mother passed away. As the boys grow up, sibling rivalry and favoritism become apparent, and the ugly truth about their mother is exposed. Terry Kinney’s beautiful production, complex in its simplicity, examines the question of whether we can choose our own destiny or if we are fated to a course determined by our DNA. This beautiful and gripping production is not to be missed.