Fall Theater: Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and More

The fall season gets into full swing with some promising premieres.

East of Eden

Sept. 17 – Nov. 15

Back in 1988, “The Grapes of Wrath” became one of Steppenwolf’s most successful shows ever. Frank Galati, who wrote the script for that groundbreaking Tony Award winner, is now adapting another classic book by John Steinbeck, and one of the theater’s founders, Terry Kinney, is directing. This sprawling epic about the intertwined lives of two California families should be a great vehicle for Steppenwolf’s justly famous ensemble acting. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-335-1650

October Sky

Through Oct. 11

Sputnik blinks in the skies over a small Appalachian town in 1957, inspiring a coal miner’s teenage son to try his hand at launching homemade rockets. That was the plot of the 1999 movie “October Sky,” which composer-lyricist Michael Mahler and book writer Aaron Thielen are transforming into this world premiere musical. Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, 847-634-0200 

The Tempest

Sept. 8 – Nov. 8

Here’s a fresh take on Shakespeare’s story of sorcery and shipwrecks. Aaron Posner (whose other plays include “Stupid F—ing Bird”) is adapting and directing “The Tempest” with an expert on magic, Teller (the normally silent half of Penn & Teller). The characters will sing tunes by one of America’s great songwriters, Tom Waits, and the renowned dance collective Pilobolus is supplying the choreography. If all these elements add up, it might just be “such stuff as dreams are made on.” Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-595-5600


Sept. 11 – Oct. 18

George Wendt of “Cheers” fame plays a fading vaudeville comic who’s trying to revive his career by taking a role in an off-Broadway avant-garde show in 1959. Another beloved local funny man, Tim Kazurinsky, plays the actor’s long-suffering agent. It’s the latest in a string of four world premieres by playwright Bruce Graham that Northlight has produced over the years, including hits such as “Stella & Lou.” Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300

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