Northlight Theatre in Skokie, IL, will stage the commissioned world premiere of Chicago playwright Jenny Laird's Sky Girls in January 2003, and George Wendt will star in the 2002-03 season opener, Richard Dresser's Rounding Third come fall.
The hot Chicago-area not-for-profit that staged the world premiere of The Last Five Years a year ago announced its 2002-03 season April 11. Northlight artistic director BJ Jones will open his season with Chicago favorite Wendt — the Second City alum and star of TV's "Cheers" — starring in the world premiere of Richard Dresser's, Rounding Third (Oct. 9-Nov. 17). Jones will direct this story of two down-on- their-luck little league coaches who battle their own demons while mounting a season against all odds. A private reading earlier this season also featured Mark McKinney. The other dad for the full staging will be announced later.
In January 2003, Jones will direct Northlight's third production, Sky Girls, Chicago playwright Jenny Laird's new historical drama about five female fliers during World War II, united in their hopes of becoming WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) for the United States (Jan. 29-March 9, 2003).
Sky Girls is winner of Northlight's 2001 Selma Melvoin Award and the theatre's first commission under artistic director BJ Jones. The play focuses on one young pilot in particular, juxtaposing her struggles to become more like her hero, WASP-founder Jackie Cochran, with the program's own fight for legitimacy and recognition.The production will be workshopped May 16-June 2, 2002 at the New Harmony Project.
Northlight's second production of the season is the Chicago premiere of Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt's Two Pianos, Four Hands (Dec. 10-Jan. 12, 2003). The play with music offers "comic portraits of pedantic piano teachers, pushy parents and piano-driven childhood rivalries" with classical and contemporary musical interludes. It concerns two would-be classical pianists who grow up in front of the keyboard. The show has been a regional hit and a smash in Canada, where it originated. Bruce K. Sevy directs this production, which is making the rounds of a handful of nonprofit regional theatres. Northlight's fourth play is Charles Ludlum's comic farce, The Mystery of Irma Vep, a spoof that puts two brilliant comic actors through their paces in a tale of high camp and mock gothic mystery (March 19-April 27, 2003).
Northlight will stage the Midwest premiere of the Algonquin Hotel-set At Wit's End (May 14-June 22, 2003). The show won a Carbonell Award in Florida in 2001. Chicago lyricist and playwright Cheri Coons and composer Michael Duff penned the work, about New York's famed Algonquin Roundtable, and Alexander Woolcott's role in the founding of New Yorker magazine. Joe Leonardo, director of Northlight's smash hit Side Show in 2000, will direct.
For family audiences, Northlight will also offer the Chicago debut of The Flaming Idiots, a tumbling, juggling fiery-torch tossing comedy trio named Gyro, Pyro and Walter, direct its New York engagement and U.S. tour. They play Sept. 18 22.
Northlight Theatre is the resident producing theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., in Skokie. The troupe operates in two venues in the center, the Centre East Theatre (830 seats) and the Northlight Theatre (330 seats). Subscriptions to Northlight's 2002/2003 season are on sale now, starting at $100. Call the Northlight box office at (847) 673-6300. Visit northlight.org.
— By Kenneth Jones