The Happiest Place on Earth and Mahalia Jackson Take the Spotlight at These Must-See Theater Productions

“Small World” / Photo by Evan Hanover/Courtesy of the New Colony

Topics of gentrification, colonial history, and family secrets take the spotlight at some of Chicago’s most anticipated theater productions, along with work and events ranging from interactive workshops to sacrilegious humor.

For Colored Girls… / Photo courtesy of Court Theatre

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
In the wake of #MeToo and the revelations around R. Kelly’s decades-long assault on young black girls and women, For Colored Girls… is a relevant, critical classic. I hope that those who see it ask themselves why this show is just as timely as when it was first created and what we all can do to change a culture that allows and enables chronic violence against black women and girls.
Details: Through April 14 at Court Theatre

Mahalia Jackson: Moving Thru the Light
Your heart and soul needs this. Go.
Details: Through April 14 at Black Ensemble Theater

Mr. Kotomoto Is Definitely Not White
The systems in which we work in order to live are crushing all of us. This play owns this and asks us to do the same. I am so excited to see it!
Details: Through April 21 at NoMads Art Collective

Mahalia Jackson: Moving Thru the Light / Photo by Ian Rigg/Courtesy of Black Ensemble Theater

Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer-winning playwright, and Sweat is the kind of timeless play that our city needs right now. When close friends are divided by disparities in access to job security, the impact on a community can be devastating. I cannot wait to see Tyla Abercrumbie as Cynthia. She was brilliant as Nya in Pipeline at Victory Gardens, and I am anxious for more!
Details: Through April 19 at Goodman Theatre

The Ridiculousness Darkness
I have said it before and I will say it again: I see everything by Sideshow because it does great work. Period. Get ready to confront our shared colonial history in this comedic, horrific spin on Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now. Sideshow warns us all that this play contains “disturbing imagery, gun violence, racialized language, loud noises and is not intended for very young theatergoers.” I am so there.
Details: Through April 28 at Sideshow Theatre

Lottery Day
Lottery Day is Ike Holter’s final play in the seven-play Rightlynd Saga. You do not want to miss this. After seeing Red Rex at Steep Theatre, I am expecting an explosive drama about community and the ways in which we succeed and fail at creating, maintaining, and revitalizing it.
Details: Through April 28 at Goodman Theatre

Small World
The New Colony is dedicated to creating character-driven pieces of art that explore the world around us, and I love that. Small World stars the wickedly talented Stephanie Shum as Kim, an employee at the Happiest Place on Earth on a day when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong does. Don’t miss this one!
Details: Through May 4 at Den Theatre

Utility won the 2016 Yale Drama Series Award and the 2017 IT Award for outstanding premiere production of a play. It is for all of us working too many jobs and spinning way too many plates. I will see you there for sure!
Details: Through May 4 at Interrobang Theatre Project

Free Street Theater continues to impress me with its commitment to pay its artists as fairly as it can while making powerful, relevant art in a democratic way: through devising. It is messy and  time-consuming, and the results are magical because they derive from the actual lives of those who create it. Next up is Parched, devised by the youth ensemble. Directed by Katrina and Dion and assistant-directed by Will Pettiway, this show is bound to be smart, funny, and powerful. Do not miss this pay-what-you-can experience.
Details: May 3–26 at Free Street Theater

Bye Bye Liver
I love the audacity of this show. It fully embraces how ridiculous most of us are who drink and do ridiculous things. Go see it, have a laugh, and be sure to tip your bartender.
Details: Ongoing at Stage 773

Cambodian Rock Band
I have a feeling I am going see this play a few times. It brings together some of my favorite things: rock, solving mysteries, father-daughter narratives, and generational trauma! Lauren Yee is one of my favorite playwrights, and in Cambodian Rock Band she is once again giving us the gift of an untold Asian history.
Details: April 13–May 5 at Victory Gardens Theater

Late Nite Catechism
I cannot help but find religion and nuns funny. Forgive me. Catch this show if you share my sacrilegious sense of humor and want some company in hell.
Details: Ongoing at Royal George Theatre