Fall/Winter Theater 2019: The 30 Best Shows to See in Chicago This Season

Chicago’s theater scene is just starting to heat up, with everything from a world premiere take on Jane Austen to an adaptation of an Oscar-winning movie. Here are the best shows to see around Chicago and the suburbs this fall and winter.

“A Doll’s House”

Sept. 25 to Dec. 15

Best Shows in Chicago: "A Doll’s House" at Writers Theatre
Cher Álvarez (Photo by Frank Ishman.)

Daring to depict a woman who feels trapped in her marriage, the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s drama caused a “storm of outraged controversy” in 1879. In recent years, it has attracted new attention. Local playwright Rebecca Gilman reimagined it in 2005 at Goodman (“Dollhouse”), and earlier this year, Steppenwolf staged Lucas Hnath’s new sequel, “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” Now, Writers Theatre artistic director Michael Halberstam and esteemed local actress Sandra Delgado have created what they call a “focused” one-act adaptation. Lavina Jadhwani, who did a superb job with “Vietgone” at Writers last year, directs this intimate staging. Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, 847-242-6000

“Something Rotten!”

Through Oct. 20

This zany show smashes together two pillars of the theatrical world: William Shakespeare and the Broadway musical. Set in 1595, it’s the story of two brothers desperate to write a hit play that will outdo the Bard. Following a soothsayer’s advice, they write the world’s first musical. This musical about that musical made its Broadway premiere in 2015, jam-packed with jokes about other musicals — and Shakespeare, of course. Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, 847-634-0200


Through Oct. 20

Best Shows in Chicago: "Bernhardt/Hamlet" at Goodman Theatre
Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre.

Based on a true story from 1899, Theresa Rebeck’s play is unusually timely in 2019, adding to the many conversations about gender identity. Sarah Bernhardt, who was the world’s most famous actress at the time, caused a stir by playing the male title character of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” This Chicago premiere will mark the Goodman Theatre debuts of director Donna Feore, a veteran of Ontario’s Stratford Festival, and lead actress Terri McMahon, known for her work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-443-3800

“The King’s Speech”

Through Oct. 20

This play’s title is familiar from the 2010 movie, which won the Oscar for Best Picture with its story about England’s King George VI learning to overcome his stammer. The author of that screenplay, David Seidler, also wrote this version for the stage, which a critic for London’s Guardian newspaper called “a cracking good story.” It’s now making its North American debut at Chicago Shakespeare, under the guidance of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-winning director Michael Wilson. Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-595-5600

“The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley”

Nov. 7 to Dec. 15

Best Shows in Chicago: "The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley" at Northlight Theatre
Photo by Chuck Osgood.

There just aren’t enough Jane Austen novels to satisfy the novelist’s fans, so why not write sequels? And sequels to those sequels? A few years ago, Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon continued the story of “Pride and Prejudice” in their play “Miss Bennet.” Now, Jessica Thebus is directing the world premiere of a new chapter, “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley,” in which the downstairs servants find themselves in a holiday scandal. Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673- 6300


Nov. 7 to Dec. 29

Ladysmith Black Mambazo teams up again with Steppenwolf Theatre, which produced past shows featuring this legendary South African singing group, including 1993’s acclaimed “The Song of Jacob Zulu.” The group will perform its marvelous music in this world premiere written and co-directed by ensemble member Eric Simonson, telling a love story that ranges from South Africa to Chicago’s Kingston Mines. Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-335-1650

Other Plays Worth Checking Out

Robert Loerzel is a freelance journalist who lives in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. His work has also appeared in Playbill and on WBEZ, and he is the author of the book “Alchemy of Bones: Chicago’s Luetgert Murder Case of 1897.”