And (5) Honorable Mentions
The year of 2018 brought an overabundance of exciting plays around Chicago land that included comedy, drama, one-man shows and musicals. Let’s Play had the pleasure of experiencing over 200 of those sensational plays this year filled with outstanding writing, direction and acting. Our top 10 picks of plays of 2018 and some very notable honorable mentions from 10 to the number one play are listed below.
- Memphis (Porchlight Music Theatre)
Playwright Joe DiPietro tells the story of a rock ‘n' roll social and musical revolution inspired by actual events in the phenomenal play of MEMPHIS! Set in the 1950s where underground dance clubs lit up the night with explosive dancing, electrifying singing, and forbidden love. A love between a white radio DJ named Huey Calhoun (Liam Quealy), a man, considered a loser with big dreams and small pockets fall in love with a beautiful black young club singer by the name of Felicia Farrell (Aeriel Williams). Felicia who is trying to make it big knows that going North is the place where it will happen.
9. Radio Golf (Court Theatre)
Radio Golf is set in The Hill District, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1997 and it is the final installment and final work of American playwright, August Wilson ten-part series called The Century Cycle. It is based on three black real-estate ambitious entrepreneurs Harmond Wilks his wife Mame Wilks and their partner Roosevelt Hicks (James Vincent Meredith). Harmond is an Ivy League-educated man who has inherited his father real estate company and is also declaring his candidacy to become the first Black mayor of Pittsburg.
8. Downstate (Steppenwolf Theatre)
Steppenwolf opens the season with another exceptional and highly controversial play called 'Downstate' by Playwright and Pulitzer Prize-winner and ensemble member Bruce Norris. This world premiere is a Co-Commission and Co-Production with the National Theatre of Great Britain it brings to the stage a provocative play where four men convicted of sex crimes against minors share a group home where their neighbors continuously remind them of their shameful past. As the lights suddenly darken this play comes to life, we see a man along with his wife speaking to a handicap elderly gentlemen and the floodgates are open when we find out why this man is at the home to confront his accuser.
- Cabaret (AURORA'S PARAMOUNT THEATRE)
Cabaret was a 1966 musical set in 1931 Berlin when Nazis were rising to terrorize the world and changing the history of humanity. Based on a John Van Druten's 1951 play I Am a Camera and revised from the short novel Goodbye to Berlin (1939), Cabaret tells the story about a sleazy nightlife called the seedy Kit Kat Klub. A club where straight out of Pittsburg comes a young American who wants to become a writer, where Cliff Bradshaw develops a relationship with an English cabaret performer by the name of Sally Bowles.
6. Gypsy (Porchlight Music Theatre)
If you haven't heard of ‘Gypsy,' let us introduce you to this musical fable written by playwright Arthur Laurents; Gypsy was considered by many to be the greatest American musicals. It is loosely based and inspired by the unbelievable memoirs of one of showbiz's unique personalities, Rose Hovick, on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist. Gypsy focuses on her mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with "the ultimate show business mother."
5. The Green Book (PEGASUS THEATRE CHICAGO)
Calvin A. Ramsey, adapter and co-author of Ruth and the Green Book, takes us back in time during the ’50s where the Davis family opens their home to black travelers in the south during Jim Crow/segregation and the birth of Civil Rights activism. This poignant story is also an exploration of the influence of civil rights on contemporary American issues. The play takes place during a weekend when the Davis family is celebrating the arrival of Dr. W.E. B. DuBois for a lecture. However, an unexpected guest arrives who happens to be a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and a chain of events unfolds that racism and anti-Semitism should no longer be overlooked.
The ’50s where the Davis family opens their home to black travelers in the south during Jim Crow/segregation and the birth of Civil Rights activism. This poignant story is also an exploration of the influence of civil rights on contemporary American issues. The play takes place during a weekend when the Davis family is celebrating the arrival of Dr. W.E. B. DuBois for a lecture. However, an unexpected guest arrives who happens to be a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and a chain of events unfolds that racism and anti-Semitism should no longer be overlooked.
4. Familiar (Steppenwolf Theatre)
Award-winning playwright and actress Danai Gurira in her latest play ‘Familiar’ reveals a charming story about challenges that are starting to plague an immigrant family living in their new world. But things have a way of coming full circle and where the erratic exploration of attaining their family legacy secrets are about to be discovered while preparing for their eldest daughter wedding.
3. The Light (The Den Theatre)
A newcomer to the scene, playwright, Loy Webb has penned a new two-hander radical love story that is worth taking an in-depth, hard look into its powerful and alluring narrative. "The Light" is an outstanding marvelous stage play by New Colony that is instantly compelling and written to perfection. You will be hooked within minutes to its humorous storyline that dramatically unfolds into a graphic discussion on sexual violence, sexism, misogyny, male supremacy, race and gender which is infused throughout the play. This play vividly discusses a pivotal, current drama that is unfolding today in America about how some men can abuse women and still be popular and become leaders within our society.
2. Flying West (American Blues Theatre)
The revival of Playwright Pearl Cleage ‘Flyin’ West’ a historical drama that focuses on the aftermath of the so-called ‘Exodus of 1879' when 40,000 African Americans migrated to Kansas, under the direction of Benjamin "Pap" Singleton who migrated to Kansas a sanctuary state for runaway slaves during the Civil War.
1. Father Comes Home From The War (The Goodman Theatre)
SPECTACULAR, FANTASTIC, THE MUST-SEE, Play of the year; these are words we usually don’t use to describe a theatrical play or anything for that matter; however, this play at The Goodman Theatre is worth all these words and much, much more.
Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks graces us with her masterpiece “Father Comes Home from The Wars: Part 1, 2 & 3;” a play that refreshes the soul with pure delight. Parks playwright composition is as poignant today as it was in the past as it connects us as humans as well as separates us from humanity.
Lettie (Victory Gardens)
Playwright Boo Killebrew tells the story of ‘Lettie’ a young woman who served seven years for her crime and being released for good behavior, she tries to reconnect with her children that are being raised by her half-sister. But before she can begin her new life, she has to re-acclimate into society by moving to a half-way house and a job re-entry program where she is being trained as a welder.
Having Our Say (Goodman Theatre)
Directed by Chuck Smith, “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years” is a phenomenal work of art. It's a mesmerizing and captivating play about two strong, vibrant sisters who made their mark in life as women of color. Sadie, who was 103 played by Marie Thomas and Bessie who was 101, performed by Ella Joyce, invited us into their world, where we saw firsthand the Delany sisters' unbreakable bond.
MACBETH (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre)
"MACBETH" takes the stage at The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater to the twenty-first century with a fantastical tale of dark magic and ambition in a thrilling climax. Political greed comprises the haunting drama of personal weakness while immersing a visual world where nothing is true as it seems, bringing veracity to Macbeth's line "nothing is but what is not!"
Buddy (American Blues Theatre)
The Buddy Holly Story is the one musical you must see. American Blues Theater showcases the story of Buddy's spectacular life and career with high octane, infectious and electrifying energy in "Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story." Zachary Stevenson makes his ABT debut as the charismatic musician. The musical career of rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly made it cool to wear glasses on stage. The Buddy Holly Story is about the superstar who life ended too soon. It starts from the days when "Peggy Sue" was "Cindy Lou," a song about his first girlfriend, to the impressive run of "That'll Be the Day" up the charts.
Plantation (Lookingglass Theatre)
Playwright Kevin Douglas comedy "Plantation!" is a story of what could happen if someone "did something." What can you do to make amends? This play shows one's person's willingness to make things right, from the wrong others have done.
The conversation around race is as prevalent today as it was yesterday and Douglas shines a light upon it with a fictional family that obviously profited from slavery with one person coming up with what she believes is an excellent solution to racism ad her contribution to reparation; which unfortunately for her; her daughters are entirely against.
Filed under: ChicagoNow