This month, Chicago gets to see a few plays that were already big hits in New York.
These might be old news as far as East Coast critics are concerned, but the Second City’s first-rate, so don’t be shocked if the plays are even better here than they were on Broadway.
With The Hat
December 28–March 3
1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-335-1650
The play with the expletive in its title got lots of exclamations from critics when it debuted on Broadway in 2011. Even then, Stephen Adly Guirgis’s comedy about modern love and other addictions had a strong Chicago connection — the director was Anna D. Shapiro, who had previously guided that landmark epic, “August: Osage County.” Now, Shapiro comes back to her home base at Steppenwolf to direct “Motherf**ker” with a cast including Jimmy Smits. Don’t let the title scare you off.
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Begins January 30
821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-337-0665
When Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer Prize finalist drama was on Broadway, it got some attention because it starred Robin Williams. But the play itself, an artful and haunting meditation about the Iraq War, was the real attraction. Lookingglass seems like the perfect Chicago theater to perform this magical story of ghosts, talking tigers and very real violence.
January 22–March 31
325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, 847-242-6000
Musicals were almost unheard of at Writers’ Theatre until 2009, when the elegant “A Minister’s Wife” debuted here. Unlike that world premiere, “Sweet Charity” is already a well-known commodity, originally conceived by Bob Fosse in 1966, the story of a dancehall hostess down on her luck. But don’t expect a typical Broadway show in this cozy Glencoe venue. With the estimable Michael Halberstam at the helm, musical director Doug Peck is remaking the score for a live jazz combo.
January 18–March 10
House Theatre at the Chopin
1543 W. Division St., Chicago, 773-769-3832
Dennis Watkins, the magician who starred in last year’s spectacular House show “Death and Harry Houdini,” revives another play filled with illusions. He originally wrote this story about an aging magician teaching his trade to a young boy in 2007. It’s been done before, but Watkins will surely have some new tricks up his sleeve.
The Whipping Man
January 18–February 24
9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300
At the end of the Civil War, a Jewish Confederate soldier holds Seder in a half-destroyed house — with two former slaves raised in his household, who also happen to be Jewish. Playwright Matthew Lopez’s drama focuses on this seemingly unlikely historical moment, finding “a quiet force,” according to a New York Times critic.
January 10–February 10
“Other Desert Cities”
January 12–February 17
“Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber”
January 16–March 17
“The Music Man”
January 16–February 3
A Red Orchid Theatre
January 17–March 3
“Concerning Strange Devices From the Distant West”
January 15–April 14