By Suzy Evans
Chicago’s had a good run with the theater elite recently. The past two Pulitzers have gone to Chicago-born shows, and David Cromer’s Our Town, which began at The Hypocrites, just got extended Off Broadway. And although the Tony’s ignored the Goodman’s Desire Under the Elms, it still received critical acclaim on Broadway. (And do I even need to mention August: Osage County at this point? Catch it on tour if you can.) So if you weren’t already looking to the Windy City for the “next big thing,” here’s an actor, a play and a company you might want to start keeping tabs on.
- Mattie Hawkinson – I first saw Hawkinson in the Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Goodman Theatre. The play’s a little didactic but Hawkinson stood out among much senior actors. So after I read the rave reviews for her performance in David Harrower’s Blackbird, I knew I had to see it, especially since her name appeared above the title. She blew me away with both her maturity and raw talent. I have a feeling she might be one of those actors who stays in Chicago, but I hope she gets cast in something that’s transferred to New York because the world ought know about her.
- Sex with Strangers – Young blogger meets older writer and they hit it off. But will the Internet kill their real world connection? Sure it sounds like it’s been done before, and though I haven’t seen the show, which is sold out for its final weekend, Chicago critics seem to think they’ve found the next hit play. Laura Eason of Lookingglass Theatre, a great Chicago company, wrote the play, and it’s running as a part of the Steppenwolf’s First Look Repertory of New Work. I’m hoping it gets remounted soon unless anybody wants to give me a ticket for this weekend.
- 500 Clown – Okay, so they’ve been around for a little while, but what’s not to love about clowns with red ears? This company continues to surprise me with the work it creates, most recently with the Brecht-inspired 500 Clown and the Elephant Deal at the Steppenwolf’s Visiting Company Initiative. (I’m finding it hard to avoid the Steppenwolf when writing about good Chicago theater.) The “clowns” devise their shows starting with a classic work and use physical improvisation and circus arts to create the final product. If you’re interested, Clown Make Monster is a documentary web series that explores the company’s approach. Check it out.