"Measure for Measure"

“Measure for Measure” (Photo by Johan Persson.)

Expect lots and lots of Shakespeare on Chicago stages in 2016, with a yearlong festival celebrating the Bard’s works. Meanwhile, the Marriott is trying something a bit more daring than usual, and the Goodman is creating a five-hour epic about evil.

Shakespeare 400 Chicago

Throughout 2016

Chicago Shakespeare Theater is spearheading this big festival honoring William Shakespeare, who died 400 years ago. Actors, dancers, musicians and other artists from Chicago and around the world will perform at hundreds of events. Early highlights include: Cheek by Jowl and Moscow Drama Pushkin Theatre’s “Measure for Measure” (Jan. 27-31); Belarus Free Theatre’s “King Lear” (Feb. 5-14); Oxford Playhouse’s “Sancho: An Act of Remembrance” (Feb. 17-21); Chicago Shakespeare’s own staging of “Othello” (Feb. 18 to April 10), with British theater artist Jonathan Munby directing Stratford Festival favorite Dion Johnstone in the title role; Lyric Opera’s “Romeo and Juliet” (Feb. 22 to March 19); Hamburg Ballet’s “Othello” (Feb. 23-24 at the Harris Theater); and the British company Forced Entertainment’s “(In) Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare” (Feb. 26-27 at the MCA). Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, and other venues, 312-595-5600 

Spring Awakening

Through Jan. 31

Before starting its subscription season, Marriott presents a short run of a show that’s riskier than its usual fare. In this Tony-winning rock musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, teens in 19th-century Germany grapple with their awakening sexual urges. It’s recommended for adults only — but then comes Marriott’s regular season, starting with a family-friendly musical comedy, “Sister Act” (Feb. 10 to April 3), based on the hit movie about nuns. The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, 847-634-0200


Mothers and Sons

Jan. 22 to Feb. 28

Terrence McNally, the playwright of “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and other acclaimed dramas, looks at how society has changed since AIDS struck the gay community in the early 1980s. Nearly 20 years after her son’s death, a woman makes an unexpected visit to the New York apartment of his former partner, who is now married to another man and has a young child. Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300

The Flick

Feb. 4 to May 8

Dexter Bullard directs the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, Annie Baker’s play about three misfits working at a run-down movie theater. “This lovingly observed play will sink deep into your consciousness, and probably stay there for a while,” New York Times critic Christopher Isherwood writes. Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-335-1650


Feb. 6 to March 13

When Roy Cockrum, a former monk in Tennessee, won $259 million in the Powerball, he decided to spend his money supporting new plays — including this five-hour epic. The Goodman’s artistic director, Robert Falls, and Seth Bockley are adapting and directing the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño’s masterpiece, a sprawling portrait of the 20th century and the nature of evil. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago 312-443-3800


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