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|The Chicago Landmark Project, Theatre Seven at Greenhouse Theater, through July 10. It's the perfect staycation—a tour of Chicago from 63rd Street to Lincoln Square, from the dawn of the 20th century to the present day. And you complete the entire excursion in one evening without ever having to leave your seat. MSB|
The Front Page, TimeLine Theatre, through July 17. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's classic 1920s Chicago journalism comedy gets a crackling good production that is so intimate that the audience practically gets to be on top the action. SCM
The Homosexuals, About Face Theatre at the Biograph, through July 24. It's a decade in the life of a once-naive young gay man, told via two-person flashbacks through friends and lovers. Philip Dawkins's serio-comic world premiere is smart writing, well-acted. JA
Yellow Face, Silk Road Theatre Project, through July 17. David Henry Hwang's ethnographic twist on the old tale of The Emperor's New Clothes makes for savage satire and insightful arguments ultimately championing the all-American tradition of self-reinvention. MSB
The Chicago Landmark Project
The Chicago Landmark Project is divided, festival-style, into two "programs" of six short plays apiece, but in fact, the two parts taken together comprise a running time no longer than your average high-end night at the theater. Unlike most snapshot anthologies, however, the roster is not a simple medley of comedy sketches, snippets from plays-in-progress, group poetry-recitals and esprit de l'escalier ruminations (though elements of all these genres make their appearance).
Theatre Seven's project proposal was for a number of playwrights to each select a corner of their city as the subject of a 10-minute play. Introducing the geographical theme is Marisa Wegrzyn's speculation on the inventor of the State-and-Madison city grid pitching his idea to his wife ("You'll never be lost! The whole city is yours!"). From there, we proceed through Oz Park to a liquor store at 63rd and Garfield, then to Humboldt Park and Logan Square, stopping at a fashionable coffee shop in Hyde Park, a record shop in Lincoln Square, a vintage dress shop in Wicker Park and many other urban enclaves, concluding our tour amid the haunted ruins of Riverview.
As with most such pageants, the quality is far from uniform: some cultural references may lost on playgoers from outside the site under scrutiny. Jamil Khoury's discussion of Arab-American relations is no less didactic for being conducted by two attractive women in athleticwear, as is J. Nicole Brooks' analysis of urban decay as explained by a street artist to a West Coast tourist. The Red Orchid Youth Ensemble enlivens a lengthy sermon on the gospel according to L. Frank Baum, but adolescent fury cannot bridge the ellipses in Yolanda Nieves' muddy saga of family conflicts, and Robert Koon's father-daughter confidences never lose sight of who's guiding the conversation.
On the other hand, Brian Golden's chance meeting between a pair of U. of C. eggheads—one "out," one undecided—offers an opportunity for a deftly-wrought exchange of academic double-entendres, and Laura Jacqmin's two buskers at a farmers' market forge a plea for unity—and a few clever songs—from the catalogue of wares for purchase, before Aaron Carter sends us home after our adventures with a ghostly reminder that even legendary fantasy-kingdoms had—and continues to have—their shadowy side. Hey, would it be still be Chicago any other way?