Don’t-Miss List August 23-August 29: A trailer park musical and Michael Jackson

August 23, 2012

Kelly Kleiman and Jonathan Abarbanel

That Was It: The Tragic Tale of Our King Michael Jackson, 7:30 p.m. every Friday through September 28, Gorilla Tango Theater at 1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown, $15

Gorilla Tango continues its ongoing critique of every imaginable pop culture phenomenon, from Star Wars to Dawn of the Dead, with this parodic Greek tragedy in which Michael Jackson is the Oedipally damned protagonist. Jackson's music and references thereto abound, and the dancing pays inspired homage to Thriller.  The cast pays attention to craft, making the piece much better than it needs to be. This is late-night comedy considerately staged at 7:30 so even old folks can enjoy it. At about 45 minutes, it’s more of an amuse-bouche than a meal, but there's plenty of amuse, and the strong pair of actors playing Jackson are the whipped cream on the cupcake (or the aioli on the foie gras). If you want more, stay for another GT show: There's always a choice among burlesque, parody, stand-up, improv and the occasional actual play. —KK

The Great American Trailer Park Musical, 8:00 p.m. Thursday through this final weekend, Kokandy Productions at Theater Wit on Belmont, $30

If you can get past the premise — that it's perfectly okay to make fun of poor people — you'll enjoy this unassuming musical about life in Armadillo Acres. The music is tuneful and excellently performed by the cast and a four-piece country-inflected band. The score's parody of the 1980s disco standard "It’s Raining Men" deserves to be a disco classic all on its own. Leading lady/narrator Danni Smith brings such warmth (and such great pipes) to her role that the show would be worth it for her alone. And nobody except a critic is likely to go to something called a "trailer-park musical" and then complain that it's full of offensive stereotypes. Only five performances left: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 and Sunday at 2.  —KK

Idomeneus, Side Show Theatre Company at the Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph; 1-312-742-8497; $25; through Sept. 23

The myths and plays of ancient Greece continue to appeal to legions of authors and directors who see them as a copyright-free source of stories. No, cancel that; who see them as universal tales that speak to us today. Chicago saw a new adaptation of Electra in July and an August staging of Antigone that placed it in the 1960s. Now Sideshow Theatre Company brings us Idomeneus, the myth about the King of Crete who sacrificed his son upon returning from the Trojan War, fulfilling a vow made to the gods in exchange for safe passage home across stormy seas. This update — which purports to be part myth, part fantasy and part comedy — is by leading contemporary German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig (which means “moldy penny”) and, with a cast of 15, purports to be a Big Deal. At any rate, Sideshow has a reputation for interesting and innovative work, of which this American Premiere (in an English translation by David Tushingham) may be an example. —JA

Pool (No Water), Vitalist Theatre at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln 1-773-404-7336; $25; through Sept. 30

British playwright Mark Ravenhill earned himself a controversial reputation early in his career with his play-designed-to-shock, Shopping and F***ing, which focused on drug-addled gay men in contemporary London. Since then Ravenhill has passed through several stages in his writing career which now finds him respectable yet experimental, having been associated since 2003 with the Royal National Theatre. Written in 2006, Pool (No Water) is a good example of his mature work, a monologue which directors are supposed to divide up between several characters, the exact number and division being left to each director. The subject matter is about art, artists and the tensions and jealousies which arise when one member of a tight circle is more successful than the others. For this Chicago premiere, director Liz Carlin Metz uses five actors and techniques of contact improvisation. —JA