It was a year for comebacks: After last season's financial setback, Famous Door scored a long-run hit with Ghetto, followed by an all-star The Homecoming, to finish out the year with the currently-playing Early And Often. City Lit recovered from its organizational difficulties to re-open in a new space with the imaginatively-crafted Alice In Wonderland. And Raven Theater, evicted from its Rogers Park home, announced its resurrection in spacious new quarters.

What with the closing of the venerable Ivanhoe (special never-say-die awards to Hellcab, Late Nite Catechism and the Free Associates) and the opening of Goodman II, the next season looks to be an adventurous one. In the meantime, some of the highlights of 2000:

1. Police Deaf Near Far, Stage Left Theater -These were not your Jerry's Kids! David Rush's docudrama of a deaf bad-boy activist pulled no punches in its gritty depiction of social alienation, its bilingual cast lending added poignancy to their narrative through its rendering in simultaneous voiced and sign language.

2. Among The Thugs, Next Theater - The ecstasy and the agony of surrender at the soccer games as related by Bill Buford via Tom Szentgyorgyi's elegant adaptation and director Kate Buckley's vigorous direction of a steel-muscled cast. Who knew testosterone could be so intoxicating?

3. Zoot Suit, Goodman Theater - Thirty years after its premiere, Luis Valdez' call for justice still defines its genre with power undiminished by social change. Henry Godinez' direction painted a searing portrait of Pachuco life in a society riddled with racial tension.

4. Pistols For Two, Lifeline Theater - not one, but three Georgette Heyer regency romps dancing daintily between fiction and reality, fiction and fiction, and somewhere 'twixt the two -- all performed by a mere six actors in ninety minutes. Lifeline's resident romantics Christina Calvit and Dorothy Milne have done it again!

5. A Dybbuk, Red Hen Productions - a rigidly orthodox Jewish community in a remote turn-of-the-century village was an unlikely setting for a tale of spectral stalking, but Curt Columbus' cast so immersed us in the lore of this mystical sect that when the ghosts prepared to speak, we listened.

6. The Ballad Hunter, Chicago Dramatists - The Appalachian mountains are America's Avalon, and Jenny Laird's sweet tale of progress triumphing chivalrously over poverty and isolation wove a delicate enchantment under the sensitive direction of Robin Stanton.

7. Slavs, European Repertory Company - The USSR might be an empire in a state of disintegration, but the company assembled by director Yasen Peyankov for Tony Kushner's whirlwind tour was the very definition of integrated ensemble work in both concept and execution.

8. The Cover Of Life, Circle Theater - The boys may have been away fighting Hitler, but the wives they left behind in Huntsville, Louisiana were fomenting their own revolution in R.T. Robinson's showcase for a squadron of virtuoso actresses.

9. Alice In Wonderland, City Lit Theater - Kelly Nespor's adaptation of the classic Victorian fantasy, assisted by a catalogue of low-tech legerdemain, retained all of its surrealistic magic and wonder right down to the grass growing in the aisles.

10. The Duel, European Repertory Company - Frank Galati's briskly efficient script expanded Chekhov's ironic tale of egotistical young lovers into a panoramic picture of fin-de-siecle Russian society at play on the Crimean beaches.

Key Subjects: 
Chicago, Illinois, Famous Door Theater
Mary Shen Barnidge
Writer Bio: 
Mary Shen Barnidge reviews theater for the Chicago Reader.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY PRODUCTIONS Big Sparklers My Heart Is Crying, Crying: The Jackie Wilson Story (Black Ensemble) Godbaby (Defiant) Enter The Guardsman (Northlight) Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Story (Black Ensemble Theater) . Small Gems Sea Marks (Pyewacket) Desdemona (Triarts) A Night Near The Sun (Real Rain) The Dogs (Billy Goat Experiment). Special Retro-Fashion Award Cahoots - We ask more of our Tired Businessman shows nowadays than glamorous settings, madcap high-jinks, and potential star-vehicles, but Claudia Allen's nostalgic take on the genre also supplied sufficient social consciousness to satisfy post-sixties playgoers. WRITERS Bob Adams (Place of Angels) Christopher Johnson (Godbaby) Peter Whelan (The Herbal Bed) Penny Penniston (Now Then Again) John Susman (Nelson And Simone) Robert Barrie (The Dogs). DIRECTORS Bill Redding (Abundance) Dexter Bullard (Place Of Angels) Kenny Ingram (Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) John Sanders (The Increased Difficulty Of Concentration) Laurence Bryan (Julius Caesar) Katie Klemme (The Butcher's Fantasy) Maggie Speer (Romeo And Juliet) Phillip Edward VanLear (The Cave Dwellers) Nick Bowling (Another Part Of The Forest) Mark Macoun (The Dreamer Examines His Pillow). TECH Scenery J. Michael Desper (Abundance), Robert G. Smith (The Mai), Geoffrey M. Curley (12th Nite), Jack K. Magaw (Grand View), Kevin Hagan (The Batting Cage), John Beckman (Sea Marks), Joey Wade (The Duel). Set dressing Terri Guise et al. (Crimes Of The Heart), Walter Hoving (The Cave Dwellers). Costumes William T. Buster (The Women), Nancy Missimi (Joseph/Dreamcoat), Jeffrey Kelly (The Life). Lighting Lear's Shadow. Fights Robin McFarquhar (Macbeth), R & D Choreography (The Silver Chair, Julius Caesar, Abducting Diana), Jonathan Nichols (The Skull Beneath The Skin). Entire tech team Slavs, The Herbal Bed, Alice In Wonderland, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon.. Special Spiritual Advisor Award Rabbi Douglas Goldhammer (A Dybbuk). Special Flora and Fauna Award English countryside by Brian Bembridge (Alice In Wonderland) Gothic garden by Jack K. Magaw (The Turn Of The Screw) Woodland glade by Heather Graff (The Ballad Hunter) Oliver dog (Taming of The Shrew), Fred Goldfish (Marge), Gorky Bear (The Cave Dwellers). Special R.U.R. Award Hystopolis puppets (A Dybbuk). Special Boat-In-The-Bottle Award Eleven Rooms Of Proust. ACTING-Youth: Christian Kohn (Class Enemy, Among The Thugs, Another Part Of The Forest) Benjamin Myers (The Dreamer Examines His Pillow) Linh Thanh Pham (Romeo And Juliet, Julius Caesar) Kelly Cooper (The Princess Bride) Katherine Martinez Ripley (Abundance) Amy Landecker (The Duel) Cyndi Rhoads (Crimes Of The Heart) Amy Warren (The Weir) . Character Gary Simmers (Watch On The Rhine, Another Part Of The Forest) Si Osbourne (Joy Of The Desolate) Larry Orr (A Night Near The Sun) Gary Houston (A Raisin In The Sun, Nelson And Simone) Kate Goehring (Joy Of The Desolate) Ann Wakefield (Another Part Of The Forest) Special Villains & Grotesques Award: entire cast (Marge) Allison Latta (Hfob-n-Ffoss). Special Hazardous Duty Award Ed Dzialo (Abducting Diana) ENSEMBLE Another Part Of The Forest (Eclipse) The Weir (Steppenwolf) Five Women Wearing The Same Dress (Wing & Groove) The Mai (Irish Repertory Of Chicago) The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon (Running With Scissors) The Women (Headstrong Theater). Special Tag-Team Award Kristine Karvelas and Karyn Morris (La Scane) Susan Bennett and Christian Stolte (And Neither Have I Wings To Fly) Karen Foley and Maggie Speer (Abducting Diana) Rebecca Jordan and Eileen Niccolai (The Batting Cage) Sam Munoz and Justin Speer (The Princess Bride) Special Friends To Artists Award Lakeview Ace Hardware Emerald City Coffee Shop Four Moon Tavern The Saints. [END]
December 2000
Or, Why I Love This Job