Don’t-Miss List May 24-30: Family drama and incest at Strawdog

May 24, 2012

Kelly Kleiman and Jonathan Abarbanel

Another opening, another show, another . . . closing.  

In the Continuum, through June 17, Pegasus Players at the Beacon Street Hull House, 4550 N. Beacon in Chicago, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3; tickets $15-$25

The venerable Pegasus Players has been absent for a while, but return in a new space with the Midwest premier of this play about two women – one from Los Angeles and one from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe – who discover that they’re HIV-positive. Their subsequent journeys are as different as the difference in continents can make them, but also include significant parallels. The Pegasus press materials describe the play as “darkly comic”–accent on the dark, I suspect. But director Ilesa Duncan can always be counted on to bring out every nuance of a script, so expect the unexpected. –KK 

Kin, through June 10, Griffin Theatre at Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont in Chicago, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3; tickets $25

Griffin does it again, with its own Midwest premiere, this one a drama about friendship and love and family, and how they conflict with one another. It’s not possible to do justice to the multifaceted plot: Suffice it to say that a series of scenes adds up to a much more powerful play than many scripts with more conventional through-lines. I’d never before heard of playwright Bathsheba Doran but will be looking out for her work from now on: She has perfect pitch for the difficulties of connecting and the ambivalence that accompanies even the deepest love. –KK

The Duchess of Malfi, closes this weekend, at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway in Chicago, Thursday through Saturday at 8, Sunday at 4, tickets $28.

Strawdog has a range of strengths, but it’s particularly notable for its ability to turn period pieces into gripping examinations of contemporary morality. If you remember John Webster as the nasty little sneak in Shakespeare in Love, you have a sense of the ugliness being explored in his drama of 16th-century intrigue and incest. Perfect subjects for a carefree Memorial Day weekend! –KK

The Marvin Gaye Story, Black Ensemble Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street; 773-769-4451; through July 29; tickets $55-$65

For the second attraction in its new, multi-million dollar arts venue, the Black Ensemble Theater Company presents another in its long series of biographies of black pop music stars, this one about the late, great Marvin Gaye. Black Ensemble founder Jackie Taylor is author and director of The Marvin Gaye Story, which is certain to feature many of Gaye’s greatest hits along with a few songs by other artists of his era. Those of us in the critic biz often take these shows to task for their thin dramatic structure, but no show in the city delivers greater musical value, and Ms. Taylor has a knack for finding and developing real star-quality talent. These factors are one reason why the American Theatre Critics Association will see a performance of The Marvin Gaye Story when they gather in Chicago June 13-17. –JA