[an error occurred while processing this directive] The lights are still bright on Broadway, but for true theatrical wattage, Chicago is now the place to go. New York City's offerings tend to be more business than show, with astronomical theater rents and rocketing production prices. But the only things soaring in Chicago are the skyscrapers. Aided by tax breaks, theater there is free to take bigger risks, and the payoff is enormous. "Here, you neither fail nor succeed," says Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls.
"It's purely about doing the work, so people get very good at it. Chicagoans make theaters everywhere out of a storefront, upstairs in a building and charge little for tickets." Chicago audiences also have an enlightened reputation. It was their rapturous reception that made Mel Brooks' The Producers a must-see in New York City before it had even arrived there.
But with over 200 theater companies to choose from, it can be tough deciding what to see. Here are five shows we recommend:
Finishing the Picture (Goodman Theatre, Sept. 21-Oct. 31) Arthur Miller's new play remembers his stormy marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Matthew Modine, Stacy Keach and Linda Lavin star.
The Dresser (Steppenwolf Downstairs, Sept. 16-Nov. 14) John Mahoney as the egotistical actor in British playwright Ronald Harwood's comedy.
The 500 Clown Frankenstein (Loop Theater, Oct. 15-Nov. 14) The company much of Chicago is talking about; a clutch of clowns reimagine Mary Shelley's monster number humor at its darkest.
16 Grandmothers (Sept. 18), 16 Students (Oct. 10) and 16 Assholes (Nov. 7) The Rhino Fest at the Curious Theatre Branch features one-night stands based on
(you guessed it)
the number 16.
Monty Python's Spamalot (Shubert Theatre, Dec. 21–Jan. 16) Eric Idle's retread of Monty Python and the Holy Grail opens in Chicago and stars Tim Curry, Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce.