Put acting greats Francis Guinan and John Mahoney on stage together and you undoubtedly get a performance that will certainly mesmerize. Add Jessica Dickey’s poignant script that delves into history and what we can take away from it, keen direction by Hallie Gordon and fine supporting performances from Ty Olwin, Karen Rodriguez and Gabriel Ruiz and you have a power-packed production that truly resonates with its audience. Steppenwolf’s latest, The Rembrant, is just that.

Guinan stars as longtime art museum guard Henry. A lot is going on this particular day. Henry’s boss Jonny (Ruiz) has just hired a new guard named Dodger (Olwin) and Henry needs to show him the ropes. The young, mohawk-wearing Dodger clearly isn’t in the same mold as his new mentor Henry and when art student Madeline admire a Rembrant before sketching it, the new guard encourages her to “touch the painting”. “Touch it”, he says, “feel the history.” Upon Henry’s return, he gazes at the same painting, one he has admired for years, Dodger urges him to do the same. Of course, this is absurd, thinks Henry. But Henry is troubled, his husband slowly dying from cancer. He has been a loyal guard for years. He wants so badly to touch the Rembrant – to feel the brush strokes. So, he does.

Once Henry feels the canvas, we are taken back in time to the life of Rembrant (also played by Guinan). We see the strong bond he has with his son Titus (Olwin), a son who wants nothing more to be by the side of his father. Dickey makes a valiant effort in encompassing the thought process behind Rembrant’s paintings. In one painting a man has a large hand and a small hand. This we learn is to keep father and son together forever, one hand belonging to Titus, the other to Rembrandt. The period is well-played and Guinan at the top of his craft.

Then emerges Homer, played wholeheartedly by Mahoney. Homer reminds us death is imminent for all of us. Though the time and the how unknown, the certainty for sure. It is a riveting dialogue that profoundly makes its way throughout the theatre prompting us to think about enjoying the gift of life while we can. We are also reminded of Mahoney’s powerful stage presence.

The play goes full circle, Henry by the side of his husband Simon (Mahoney) as they reminisce about the past, cherishing fond memories and exchanging their feelings for one another in a sad, but moving scene that adds an exclamation point to a very engaging story.

Guinan is sensational. However, he will take leave of the role after the October 22nd performance. Talented Chicago actor Joe Dempsey will reprieve Guinan and take over the role of Henry and Rembrandt as of October 24th. Inventive set design, wonderful acting performances and an engaging story, The Rembrandt is a warm production that connects the present to the past in a very creative way.

Recommended.

The Rembrandt is being performed at Steppenwolf Theatre through November 5th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.steppenwolf.org.

 

*Extended through November 11th

Published in Theatre in Review

Steppenwolf Theatre Company opens its 42nd Season with the Chicago premiere of The Rembrandt, written by Jessica Dickey and directed by Hallie Gordon. Currently in rehearsals, this subtle and elegant play features ensemble members Francis Guinan as Henry/Rembrandt and John Mahoney as Simon/Homer with Ty Olwin (Dodger/Titus), Karen Rodriguez (Madeline/Henny) and Gabriel Ruiz (Jonny/Martin). Previews begin September 7, opening is September 17 and the show has already been extended through November 5 due to popular demand. The Rembrandt takes place in Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St. Single tickets ($20 - $99) are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.

When a museum guard decides to touch a famous Rembrandt painting, a remarkable journey across the ages ensues. Spanning centuries of human experience, Jessica Dickey’s The Rembrandt movingly explores the power of creative expression and the sacrifices we make in the pursuit of love and beauty, reminding us that though our beliefs may die with the sound of our voice, it’s the love we share—and the art that love inspires—that finds eternity.

Director Hallie Gordon shares, “The Rembrandt asks you step into the painting and its different worlds. What we find is beauty and meaning in the understanding that no matter where we are, art allows us to unravel the mysteries of being. It could be in a temple or it could be in a dark apartment. We are all attracted to and seeking after that elemental spark of genius, and ultimately that which we leave behind.”

In regards to her process playwright Jessica Dickey shares, “Researching the world of museum guards was a fascinating window into a very particular subculture. The result is an examination of the eternal and the ephemeral that is funny, surprising and filled with yearning. The Rembrandt explores how encountering a work of art can be practice for the real thing—really seeing one another.”  
Jessica Dickey is an award-winning actor and playwright most known for her play, The Amish Project, which opened Off-Broadway at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Helen Hayes Award, Barrymore Award, among others). The Rembrandt was commissioned and produced (then titled The Guard) by the Ford’s Theatre as part of the Women’s Voices Festival and was awarded the Stavis Award for Playwriting.

Hallie Gordon is an Artistic Producer at Steppenwolf and the Artistic Director for Steppenwolf for Young Adults, where she has directed many productions for the program including Monster by Walter Dean Myers; George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm; The Book Thief; To Kill a Mockingbird; and the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. She’s also directed for Northlight Theatre and is an ensemble member for Rivendell Theatre where she directed the critically acclaimed Dry land and Eat Your Heart Out. Most recently for Steppenwolf, she directed Taylor Mac’s Hir, now playing through August 20, 2017.

About the Cast & Creative Team

Ensemble member Francis Guinan has appeared in more than 30 shows, currently in Taylor Mac’s Hir. Ensemble member John Mahoney also has appeared in more than 30 Steppenwolf productions, most recently The Herd, The Birthday Party and The Seafarer. Mahoney won a Tony Award for his performance in The House of Blue Leaves and is well-known for his role on the hit TV series, Frasier. Ty Olwin is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf, currently in Taylor Mac’s Hir and was in Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ productions of The Burials and Lord of the Flies. Olwin was featured in the 2016 film Personal Shopper starring Kristen Stewart. Karen Rodriguez is making her Steppenwolf debut, and was recently featured in the solo show The Way She Spoke: A Docu-Mythologia at the Greenhouse Theatre and Hookman at Steep Theatre. Gabriel Ruiz is a graduate of the DePaul Theatre School and an ensemble member of Teatro Vista. Previous Steppenwolf Theatre Company credits include How Long Will I Cry?, Motherfucker with the Hat and The Way West. He has appeared in the TV series Boss, Chicago Fire and Chicago Justice.
The Rembrandt production team includes Regina Garcia (scenic design), Jenny Mannis (costume design), Ann G. Wrightson (lighting design), Elisheba Ittoop (sound design and original music) and Gigi Buffington (company vocal coach). Other credits include Aaron Carter (artistic producer), JC Clementz (casting director), Laura D. Glenn (stage manager) and Brian Maschka (assistant stage manager).

Tickets & Production Info

Single tickets ($20-$99) available at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org. Previews: $20 – $54 and Regular Run: $20 – $99. Prices subject to change. Note: There is limited availability Sept 7-Oct 22, but open availability during extension weeks Oct 24 – Nov 5. Rush Tickets: half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket; steppenwolf.org/students. Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season; steppenwolf.org/groups. Classic Subscription Memberships offer 7-Play Packages securing dates and seats for the full Steppenwolf experience, as well as Create-Your-Own Packages with 5 or 6 plays. Perks include discount prices, easy and free exchanges and more. Black Card Memberships are for audiences interested in extreme flexibility with six tickets for use any time for any production. Black Card ticket credits are valid for one year with the option to add additional tickets as needed. Perks include easy and free exchanges, access to seats before the general public, savings on single ticket prices and bar and restaurant discounts for pre- and post-show socializing. Red Card memberships are available for theatergoers under 30.  To purchase a Card Membership, visit Audience Services at 1650 N Halsted St, call 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.

Accessible performances include an American Sign Language interpretation on Sunday, October 1 at 7:30pm, Open Captioning on Saturday, October 7 at 3pm and a Touch Tour on Sunday, October 15 at 1:30pm. For more information, visit steppenwolf.org/access. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance. An induction loop is installed in the Downstairs Theatre and the 1700 Theatre.

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks

Connected to the main lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks, offering a warm, creative space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open daily from 8am to midnight, Front Bar serves artisanal coffee and espresso is provided by La Colombe and food prepared by Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service. www.front-bar.com

Sponsor Information

Northern Trust is a sponsor on The Rembrandt. United Airlines is the Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf and ComEd is the Official Lighting Sponsor for the 17/18 season.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

In Native Gardens, an ambitious young couple moves into a fixer-upper in an affluent DC neighborhood. Husband Pablo (Gabriel Ruiz) is a lawyer, his pregnant wife Tania (Paloma Nozicka) is working on her doctorate dissertation. Their nice and lively, albeit politically incorrect, neighbors are a defense contractor Virginia (Janet Ulrich Brooks) and her retired gardening-loving husband Frank (Patrick Clear). Shortly after moving in, Pablo has a bright idea to invite his entire law firm (all sixty people) to a barbeque in their embarrassingly unfinished yard, so the young couple gets to work. The old wire fence separating the neighbors’ properties (very nice design set by William Boles) has to go, but it soon becomes evident that Frank has been gardening on extra 23 inches of land that actually belongs to the new couple, according to the property plans.


Upon further calculations Pablo realizes that those 23 inches along the old fence translate into extra 80 sq feet of land which goes for “about $15,000 at a current market price”. Well, it’s a war then! Frank refuses to let go of his lovingly raised flowers right up against the ill-placed fence, while the young couple is on a mission to re-claim what’s rightfully theirs.


Who knew that an incorrectly placed fence would cause so much commotion? We all did, we saw it coming before the play even started. But despite its predictability, this comedy is still entertaining and somewhat thought provoking. Written by Karen Zacarias and directed by Marti Lyons, Native Gardens is more about generation clash, stereotypes, ageism and racism rather than the property lines. The older couple is from the pre-self-censorship era, and in their ignorance, they don’t always choose words carefully; they say what’s on their minds rather than hide behind politically correct words and ideas. But those words are often offensive to the delicate ears of Tania, whose proper opinions, frankly, make for sterile conversation, enough to put one to sleep. All in all, the two couples can’t effectively communicate, so they threaten each other instead. Will their peace be restored?


Native Gardens runs through July 2nd at Victory Gardens Theater. To find out more about this show visit www.VictoryGardens.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

“City of Angels”, which won several Tony awards back in 1990 is really two stories in one. One is the black and white sexy film noir plot that author Stine (played sympathetically by actor Rob Thomas) is writing about private dick Stone for a sleazy Hollywood producer and the other story revolves around his real life. Stone is played with nice masculine swagger by Kevin Earley. Director Nick Bowling has done a great job of bringing this very complex and sometimes confusing musical to life in the round space at Marriott Lincolnshire.

The women in this show really took the reins and each had some dynamite moments. Summer Naomi Smart is lovely to look at as the classic film noir femme fatale and has her best number dressed in tennis whites as she wittily seduces her newly hired detective into her employ. 

Erin McGrath as her missing step daughter Mallory has a very sexy number wrapped only in a bed sheet also trying to seduce the detective into taking her side in the romantic number "Lost and Found".

I just adored Megan Murphy's entire dual performance. She plays both Stone’s secretary, Oolie, and Stine’s mistress, Donna. Murphy had the entire audience laughing with her number "You Can Always Count on Me". 

I've been "the other woman" since my puberty began
I crashed the junior prom
And met the only married man
One joe who swore he's single
Got me sorta crocked, the beast
I woke up only slightly shocked that I’d defrocked a priest
Or else I attract 
The guys who are longing to do my hair
You can always count on me

Murphy has a really solid, terrific singing voice and her whole character really resonated with a sense of grounded humorous reality in both worlds of this show. Buddy Fidler, the sleazy yet success making producer was adorably played by the talented Gene Weygandt.

The quartet of singers playing the 'Greek chorus" that move the story along were reminiscent of group The Manhattan Transfer and their marvelous harmonies were a delight to listen to in each scene. 

Gabriel Ruiz shows a real star turn in his smaller role as Officer Munoz his number was sung with perfect comic timing in “All You Have to Do is Wait,” referring to what he thinks is  Stone’s upcoming  gas chamber execution.

Elizabeth-Lanza-Cassie-Slat

This production definitely had more seductive bite than others I have seen at Marriott Theatre and I always enjoy the way the intimate theater in the round is used to keep the audience alert and involved as actors are constantly making their entrances and exits seamlessly right through the crowd without mishap. 

Though their productions are always top notch, the only bug that regularly occurs at The Marriott Theatre is that there are not enough service areas during intermission so you have to chug whatever you do get to purchase before returning to your seat. Also drinks, even bottled water, are not allowed in the theater. This is a real problem given that if you have a cough attack or other emergency during the show because you really cannot leave the theater discretely without literally running into characters in the show. This minor discomfort could easily be solved with a few more bartenders and a water allowed policy. 

I highly recommend this lively, seductive and funny production of the Tony Award winning “City of Angels" for young and old alike. It has the sexy humor adults will appreciate and the great music and action young people will be entertained by. “City of Angels” is being performed at The Marriott Theatre through August 2nd. For more information about the show, visit www.marriotttheatre.com

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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