The word "classic" is tossed around pretty casually these days—indeed, it's not uncommon for Baby Boom geezers to affix that appellation to anything recalled from their youth, regardless of lasting historical significance ("Yellow Submarine" might qualify as "classic" pop, but should "Mellow Yellow" share that status?)

According to sages at Windy City Times, a play can be called a "classic" only if it's more than 100 years old—otherwise, it's a "revival." With that definition in mind, here are some of both to see this fall:


King Lear, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Sept. 17-Nov. 9 (312-595-5600; Larry Yando—who's played Scar (in The Lion King) and Scrooge (in the you-know-what Carol)—now takes on the role of Shakespeare's ultimate abusive father.


C.S. Lewis Onstage, Provision Theater, currently running through Oct. 19 (866-811-4111. Clive Staples Lewis wrote the fantasy allegory “Narnia Chronicles” to clarify his own faith, and Brad Armacost recreates his struggle in this remount of his solo show premiering in 2008.

Jane Eyre, Lifeline Theater, running through Oct. 26 (773-761-4477, Charlotte Bronte's title character is one of the three most famous orphans in western literature (see Great Expectations below), her adventures providing the prototype for romantic heroines to this day.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Idle Muse Theater Company, Sept. 20-Oct. 19 (773-334-7728 This is the hip Jeffrey Hatcher adaptation, where no less than four actors are necessary to portray the righteous hero's menacing alter ego.

Churchill, SoloChicago Theater. Oct. 3-Nov. (773-404-7336, Ronald Keaton's solo portrait of the contrary Englishman whose leadership shaped Europe's destiny in the 20th century sold out houses during the summer, prompting this fall extension.

Great Expectations, Strawdog Theater Company, Nov.10-Dec. 20 (773-528-9696, This Lakeview off-Broadway loft wasn't big enough to hold the playgoers who flocked last winter to this bare-bones adaptation of Dickens' saga centering on an orphan boy in search of his fortune.


Dial "M" For Murder, Metropolis Arts Center in Arlington Heights, Sept. 18-Oct. 19 (847-977-2121, Frederick Knott's nervous wife pursued by an unknown assassin supplies the shivers in this first of two fall thrillers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

All My Sons, Raven Theater, Sept. 22-Nov. 15 (773-338-2177, Arthur Miller's cautionary fable of what would later be called the military-industrial complex showcases actor Chuck Spencer, whom fans have seen grow from fresh-faced juvenile roles to graying patriarchs.

Watch on the Rhine, Artistic Home, Oct. 5-Nov. 16 (866-811-4111. The folly of isolationist complacence in the years before America joined the war against Hitler gets thoughtful discussion in Lillian Hellman's 1941 drama.

Both Your Houses, Remy Bumppo Theater Company, Oct. 6-Nov. 9 (773-404-7336. Maxwell Anderson won the 1933 Pulitzer for this West-Wing comedy, but its political observations are still surprisingly apt today.

The Mousetrap, Northlight Theater, Nov. 14-Dec.14 (847-673-6300. This seminal Agatha Christie lonely-dark-house murder mystery—running continuously in England since 1952—is only 33 years away from becoming a bona fide classic.


At Home at the Zoo, City Lit, Sept. 23-Oct. 26 (773-293-3682, In 1961, Edward Albee wrote about a pair of strangers whose chance meeting in an urban park bench changes their lives forever, and now, more than 50 years later, he tells us how they got there.

The Clean House, Bluebird Arts, Sept. 29-Oct. 25 (773-404-7336. The founders of the late European Repertory Company make their comeback with this first of two fall reinterpretations of Sarah Ruhl's treatise on domestic issues.

The Cryptogram, Profiles Theater, Oct. 2-Nov. 16 (773-549-1815. Even David Mamet was a boy once, and this play offers hints of how he grew to be the man he is today.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Aston Rep at Raven Studio, Oct. 23-Nov. 22 (773-828-9129. Martin McDonagh's satire of Irish terrorism required five gallons of fake blood for every performance at Northlight in 2009, but in this small room, only a few quarts should be needed.

Shining City, Irish Theater of Chicago, Nov. 26-Jan. 4 (773-878-3727. The former Seanachai Theatre declares its ethnicity up front in this staging of Conor McPherson's haunting story of—well, ghosts, and those they leave behind.


Liberace, Milwaukee Rep at Stackner Cabaret in Milwaukee. Nov. 7-Jan. 1 (414-224-9490. Jack Forbes Wilson returns to portray the outrageously flamboyant home-town pianist who defied the repressive America of the 1950s to audaciously "cry all the way to the bank."

Mary Shen Barnidge
Publication Credit: 
This article first appeared in Windy City Times, 9/14
September 2014