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Collin Quinn Rice, left, and Raphael Diaz in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of “The Harvest” by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Jonathan Berry. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Broken souls grasp for meaning and connection in Samuel D. Hunter’s intense play that unfolds in a dreary church basement in the small town of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

A roundup of recent concerts from the Ravinia Festival

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A scene from “Mass” (Russell Jenkins / Ravinia Festival)

As visitors to the Ravinia Festival well know, the picnics on the grass staged there tend to be legendary feasts. But it is the musical feasts that are the real food for thought.

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From left: Theo Huff (obscured), Rick Stone, Dwight Neal, Lamont “Harmonica Man” Harris, Cynthia Carter and Rhonda Preston in “Rick Stone the Blues Man” at Black Ensemble Theater. (Credit: Alan Davis)

In her deftly crafted new show, “Rick Stone the Blues Man,” writer/director Jackie Taylor has devised a wonderfully engaging way to explore the full spectrum of blues classics.

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Knute Rockne (Stef Tovar) fires up the Notre Dame football team. (Credit: Justin Barbin)

In spinning the tale of Knute Rockne and his prize athlete, the creators of this terrific show have tapped into much grander themes than the nature of intensely competitive college football.

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Zachary Stevenson and Molly Hernandez in “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Broadway Playhouse. (Credit: Brett Beiner)

Theater critic Hedy Weiss gives us her take on a Tennessee Williams classic, an Elvis musical full of glitz and hits and more on Chicago-area stages.

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Stacy Keach in the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s “Pamplona,” directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. (Credit Liz Lauren)

A little more than a year after he suffered “a mild heart attack” midway through his opening night performance in “Pamplona,” Stacy Keach is in top form. 

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From left: Matt Codina, Eddie Clendening, Jamie Pittle and Zach Lentino in “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Broadway Playhouse. (Credit: Brett Beiner)

Too often this Elvis Presley-focused prequel to “Million Dollar Quartet” homes in on material that might have been cut from that earlier show. But on the plus side, it infuses the story with much that was omitted from “Quartet.”

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Jason Grimm, left, and Noel Carey star in “Murder for Two” at the Marriott Theatre. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

The real question at the heart of this 95-minute, music-infused marathon of a farce – which features two actors playing 13 characters and frequently sharing time at a piano – is whether the performers themselves will make it out alive.

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Anthony Bowden and Genevieve Angelson in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Credit: Brett Beiner Photograpahy)

In the feverish intensity of its emotions alone, this Tennessee Williams revival directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge is grand opera from start to finish. 

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Brian Mengler, Josh Hills, Jonathan Zeng, Nick Cuellar, Athena Kopulos, Emma Sorenson and Alfredo Jimenez in “The Csardas Princess.”

What is most impressive about this romantic comedy, the first work to be produced in Folks Operetta’s “Reclaimed Voices” series, is the exceptional beauty of the voices in the show’s large cast, and the performers’ comic swagger.

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Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in “Waitress.” (Credit: Joan Marcus)

Director Diane Paulus taps into the pain and high comedy of the story, but Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre is far too big a venue for this essentially intimate show.

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Peter Pan (Johnny Shea) in “Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure,” directed and choreographed by Amber Mak. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

The elaborately produced 75-minute show has all the energy and magic necessary to keep young audiences engaged. At the same time, the adult aspects of the story emerge with particular force and clarity.

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Scenes from “Support Group for Men,” left, and “The Roommate.” (Photo credit: Liz Lauren, left, and Michael Brosilow)

While both “Support Group for Men” and “The Roommate” rely on predictable clichés, each serves as a prime example of how absolutely first-rate actors invariably bring total devotion to mediocre scripts.

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Christian Siebert, Jonah D. Winston and Dan Smeriglio in “Avenue Q” at Mercury Theater. (Credit: Brett A. Beiner)

The surprising thing about “Avenue Q” is just how wise, witty, open-minded and openly devoid of by-the-book political correctness it manages to be. 

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Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block and Micaela Diamond in “The Cher Show” at Broadway in Chicago's Oriental Theatre. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The most winning aspect of this flashy new musical at the Oriental Theatre is how three different actresses with powerful voices so deftly capture Cher at various stages of her life.

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Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Rossini’s “Stabat mater” featuring soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, tenor Dmitry Korchak and bass-baritone Eric Owens. (© Todd Rosenberg)

Just as many Italian Renaissance paintings of the crucifixion possess a breathtaking beauty that defies the brutality of the event, this music continually captures a vivid sense of transcendence.