Profiles Theatre

This post started as an email to my brother Bob who lives, part of the year, near Chicago. I was going to give him some unsolicited (but probably welcome) advice about some intriguing theatre offerings in the next few months at Profiles Theatre in Chicago.  I decided to post this instead since I have some readers in Chicago, and others of you might find yourself traveling.

When I attended tiny Profiles Theatre years ago (to see an excruciatingly good production of Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig) I immediately felt there was something special about the artistic commitment there. Even with only my periodic visitor’s exposure, it has been clear to me that it is hard to be particularly special in the theatre community of Chicago, where it seems the quality level of theatre is so routinely high, so consistently excellent, and there are so many theatre companies, large and small.  From Steppenwolf to the Goodman to outlying Northlight in Skokie and Writers Theatre in Glencoe, I have seen theatre of the very highest standards.  Nevertheless, Profiles Theatre is special in its strong and longstanding commitment to new and challenging work.  When they started Profiles Theatre 25 years ago,  artistic directors Joe Jarhaus and Darrell W. Cox envisioned an actor-driven theatre ensemble dedicated to creating provocative and emotionally truthful productions.  They are “passionate about shaping an original vision for new works, [focusing] on performing World, American and Midwest premieres as well as rarely performed plays.” Since my visit, they have acquired a larger Main Stage (retaining the original intimate Alley Stage as well) and Neil LaBute has become Profiles’ Resident Artist and unequivocal artistic influence on the ensemble.

The three plays remaining in Profile Theatre’s current season are good examples.  All three are prize winners; all are reportedly edgy and discomfiting; all are critically acclaimed; all are plays I very much want to see:

Gidion’s Knot by Johnna Adams (Now playing through March 9, 2014):   season_gidions_knot “Over the course of a 90-minute parent/teacher conference, a grieving mother and an emotionally overwhelmed primary school teacher engage in a fraught conversation about the tragic suicide of Gidion, the mother’s son and the teacher’s student. Gidion may have been bullied severely — or he might have done the abusing. As his story slowly reveals itself, the women try to reconstruct a satisfying explanation for Gidion’s act as well come to terms with their excruciating feelings of culpability.”

Cock by Mike Bartlett (February 14 – April 6, 2014):season_cock “In this tense comedy about sexual identity, Cock explores one man’s choices about which path of love to pursue. When John takes a break from his longtime boyfriend, the last thing he expects is to fall in love with a woman. Trapped between two lovers, John feels the physical and emotional tug as neither party wants to lose the battle for his heart. John must make a choice as he navigates his sexuality, selfhood, and the intersection of the two.”

Hunter Gatherers by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb (May 16 – June 29, 2014):season_hunter_gatherers  “Every year, Pam and Richard host their best friends, Wendy and Tom, for a dinner get-together. This time, an animal sacrifice kicks off the party, followed by a little more sex, violence, deception, wrestling, and dancing than ever before. A darkly comic evening, Hunter Gatherers, explores the thin line between civilized and primal man, where not everyone survives long enough to enjoy the brownies for dessert.”

Profiles Theatre and its long commitment to new work, hard truths and provocative subjects helps make Chicago a true theatre destination city.

If you’re in Chicago and you love new works, check out Profiles Theatre.  I’m making a special spring trip.

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