Piccolo season is always a good time to see new plays, but it’s an equally good time to catch that production you missed during the fall theater season, or even a couple of Piccolos ago. Here’s our rundown of some of the productions returning (in whatever sense) to the festival this year, and what our reviewers thought about them. (Hint: All of these plays were highly praised.)

Becoming Harriet Tubman
When: Piccolo 2012
Reviewer: Duffy Lewis
Grade: A+
She called it: “An engrossing tale of a legendary historic figure.”

Daise enthralls, combining Tubman’s powerful words with her own artistic prose and lyrical styling.

Read the review and this year’s feature.

Bunker 13
When: Piccolo 2010
Reviewer: Jason Zwiker
He called it: “A slice of life about a kind of life that is less commonly seen, both thought provoking and highly entertaining.”

Bunker 13 is improv: each performance is wholly original. Prior to the beginning of the show, members of the audience are given the opportunity to write postcards to the troops. It is from the words on the cards that the show is crafted. The show is set in the Vietnam War, but as Christensen, who plays Sarge, notes, it provides many parallels with what our troops are experiencing today, far from home, trying to form friendships as best they can with their fellow soldiers.

Read the review and stay tuned for next week’s feature.

When: Piccolo 2010
Reviewer: Amy Stockwell Mercer
Grade: B+
She called it: “A subtly insightful monologue.”

Dockery bares his bones, making the audience laugh at his failures, weaknesses, and fears, but what we see all along is his humanity.

Read the review.

Clybourne Park
When: May 2013
Reviewer: Elizabeth Pandolfi
Grade: N/A
She called it: “One of PURE’s best productions yet.”

Rogers said it best during his comments before the play began: Clybourne Park manages to be both poetic and extremely realistic at the same time, which is a rare combination. The play is also funny as hell, even though it deals with things like suicide, prejudice, and the way political correctness can slide into contempt and condescension.

Read the review and this year’s feature.

Hearts Full of Blood
When: Nov. 2012
Reviewer: We didn’t review this one, but we did preview it and interviewed its author.
Grade: N/A
What the author said:

James Asmus says that audiences have had a visceral reaction to the show. “The Chicago cast always reported lots of gasps, sudden horrified shouts, or even sudden sobbing,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard so many people crying before as I did at the end of Act I. As the writer, I felt weirdly proud and guilty at the same time.”

Read last year’s preview and this year’s feature.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
When: Sept. 2012
Reviewer: Jon Santiago
He called it: “A champ.”

While we’re not likely to pony up for pay-per-view wrestling any time soon just because Chad Deity won us over, we do appreciate PURE Theatre going to the mat for its audience.

Read the review and stay tuned for next week’s feature.

Tell Me On a Sunday
When: Sept. 2012
Reviewer: Jon Santiago
Grade: N/A
He called it: “A starry-eyed charmer.”

Fishburne handles the daunting challenge of the one-woman-show (75 minute long, no intermission) with so much energy, charm, and style that she’s a slam dunk for the category “Unforgettable.” Place a big talent in a small space and chances are good you’ll witness some genuine theatrical magic unfold. That’s what happens here.

Read the review and this year’s feature.