Theatre

King of the Yees, now playing at the Goodman Theatre through April 30, is full of laughs and wisdom. Both touching and endearing, the play - with themes of family, community and tradition - takes a look at one Chinese-American family’s attempt to bridge the generation gap.

 

Written by Lauren Yee and directed by Joshua Kahan Brody, King of the Yees features Lauren and her father Larry Yee as central characters in this off-beat, quirky, yet totally relevant production that explores the history of patriarchal family groups like the Yee Fung Toy association in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

 

King of the Yees is only kind of true—just like the stories your father once told you as a child,” said Lauren. “Growing up, I never understood what the Yee Fung Toy – a club of Yees – was, or why people were a part of it. With this play, I’ve been able to explore not only my own self-consciousness within my community, but it’s also shed light on how that is a universal experience. With every generation, there is a feeling of being unworthy and being unprepared to take up the cultural mantle. In a way, this play is a hero’s quest that celebrates those feelings of inadequacy.”

 

Established hundreds of years ago, family associations were a way to provide resources and community in the face of the discrimination that so many Chinese-American families experienced. These mainly men’s clubs became very powerful over the years. However, as a new generation began to take its place in world, these groups that limited the roles of women among other things, were often viewed as obsolete and unappealing.

 

King of the Yees examines that waning influence and the emotional impact on families in a performance that is infectious, interactive, metaphysical but always heartfelt.

 

Larry Yee, brilliantly played by Francis Jue, is the gregarious and engaging head of the Yee family association, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Yee line. Lauren (Stephenie Soohyun Park) is dismissive of the purpose and necessity of such a club and to the surprise and dismay of her father plans to move to Berlin with her Jewish husband. A disappointed Larry suddenly goes missing and Lauren’s frantic search for him takes her to an abstract world full of symbolism from the past with lessons for the future. That journey leads her not only to her father but to a better understanding of the family association and the community and traditions he is trying to preserve.

 

King of the Yees is filled with a small but versatile cast (Daniel Smith, Angel Lin and Rammel Chan) who capably play a variety of roles during the two-act production.

 

The set design is simple but effective, mainly consisting of a large ceremonial door that is very significant to the storyline. Also, the use of projections on the back wall of the stage was very creative. The design team includes William Boles (set), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Heather Gilbert (lighting), Mikhail Fiksel (sound) and Mike Tutaj (projections).  

 

Recommended.

 

King of the Yees runs through April 30 in the Owen Theatre at the Goodman. Tickets are available online at GoodmanTheatre.org/Yees.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Artistic Director Robert Falls announces Goodman Theatre’s new 2017/2018 Season, which builds on the theater’s 40-year commitment to producing works that are representative of American society. In announcing the new season, Falls serves up a dynamic mix of works from culturally and aesthetically diverse playwrights—new plays and revisited classics that address the most significant issues facing the country today. The 2017/2018 Season, beginning in September 2017 and continuing through July 2018, includes plays on both of the Goodman’s stages: the 856-seat Albert Theatre and 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre. New this season, the Goodman introduces a variety of “Membership” options for its audiences; 5-play Albert packages start at $100. Call 312.443.3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Power. Individual tickets go on sale in early August.  American Airlines is the Major Production Supporter, Exelon/ComEd is the Major Corporate Sponsor of Having Our Say, Mayer Brown is the Corporate Sponsor Partner for The Wolves and the Time Warner Foundation is the Lead Supporter of New Play Development.

 

“Heroic and hopeful, challenging and illuminating, Goodman Theatre’s 2017/2018 Season is a collection of plays that reflects the times in which we live—powerful works that hold up a mirror to who we are, what has brought us here and question where we will go in the future,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “These are plays that feel particularly relevant at this moment, as we face a darkly divided country and society. As a cultural institution devoted for four decades to the ideals of diversity and community, we must give voice to all ideas, all communities on our stages and in our engagement center programs—with a special eye to those who, because of their ethnicity, gender identification, sexual orientation, age or religious principles, might be marginalized or excluded altogether. The power of theater to unite, engage and inspire us is needed now more than ever.”

 

Continued Falls, “We open our Albert Theatre season with the Chicago premiere of one of the most thrilling and important recent revivals of a classic work, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, reimagined by director Ivo van Hove—a production that earned enormous acclaim on Broadway and in London’s West End. Miller writes about the marginalization of immigrant culture, and an America that may not be excluded from the tragedy of that. Next, I am excited to direct the world premiere of Blind Date by Rogelio Martinez, a fascinating backstage glimpse of one of history’s oddest couples—Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev—infused with sly humor and unexpected wisdom. Following Blind Date comes my new production of An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen—a play that addresses corruption, greed and destruction of the environment, and is, sadly, as timely today as when it was written in 1882. In the spring, we’ll revive the warm, human and altogether wonderful Having Our Say by Emily Mann, directed by Chuck Smith, which follows two remarkable centenarians—Sadie and Bessie Delany, sisters and Civil Rights pioneers—and their struggles for equality. The season concludes with the world premiere of Support Group for Men by Ellen Fairey, directed by Kimberly Senior—an uproarious, topical comedy about middle-aged men in a changing world, where traditional notions of gender are increasingly passé. Ellen’s new play was an audience favorite in our 2016 New Stages Festival, and is a perfect match for the talents of our frequent collaborator Kimberly Senior.”

 

Continued Falls, “In the Owen Theatre, we begin with Yasmina’s Necklace by Rohina Malik, directed by Ann Filmer, a graceful, moving new play that invites audiences into the living rooms of Muslim families who themselves represent a collision of cultures and experiences—Latinx and Arab, immigrants and refugees—and celebrates our similarities. We are proud to produce this play, which we developed in the 2010 New Stages Festival and which enjoyed an extended world premiere production last year at 16th Street Theater, under Ann’s direction. Next is the Chicago premiere of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, directed by Vanessa Stalling—a thrilling new work fueled by the raw adolescence of a high school girls soccer team, whose off-Broadway premiere was counted among The New York Times’ ‘Best Theater of 2016.’ I’m excited for Vanessa, our former Goodman Maggio Fellow and one of the most exciting emerging directors in Chicago, to make her Goodman directing debut. We’ll conclude the Owen Theatre season with the epic Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Niegel Smith. It’s an honor to present the Chicago premiere of the brilliant and powerful new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Topdog/Underdog and host Niegel, the artistic director of New York’s Flea Theater, in his Goodman debut.”

 

Falls continued, “In addition, we will present a springtime limited engagement of the complex and provocative new play, Until the Flood by Dael Orlandersmith, about the ways trauma manifests itself in a community—in this case, Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager. Finally, we are proud to present the 14th annual New Stages Festival of new plays, which includes six new plays (three developmental productions in repertory + three staged readings, TBA), and celebrate the 40th anniversary of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper and starring Larry Yando in his 10th turn as Ebenezer Scrooge.”

  

About the Productions and Events in Goodman Theatre’s 2017/2018 Season

 

New this season, the Goodman introduces a variety of “Membership” options for its audiences; call 312.443.3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Power to join or learn more. Individual tickets go on sale beginning in August. Plays, artists and dates are subject to change.

 

2017/2018 SUBSCRIPTION SEASON

                                                                                                                                                

The Young Vic Production of Arthur Miller’s View from the Bridge

Directed by Ivo van Hove

September 9 – October 15, 2017 in the Albert Theatre

A Chicago Debut 

 

Visionary Belgian director Ivo van Hove injects a raw, pulsating energy into Arthur Miller’s 1955 classic—“powerhouse theater that will leave you breathless!” (The Hollywood Reporter)—recipient of 2016 Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play and Best Director. Direct from sold-out runs on Broadway and the West End comes the Chicago debut of van Hove’s “magnetic, electrifying, astonishingly bold” (London Evening Standard), “radically reimagined” (The Washington Post) revival of Miller’s famed drama. Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone welcomes his immigrant cousins to America. But when one of them falls for Eddie’s young niece, his jealous mistrust exposes an unspeakable secret—one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal.

 

Yasmina’s Necklace

By Rohina Malik

Directed by Ann Filmer

October 20 – November 19, 2017 in the Owen Theatre

The refugee experience is illuminated by this “sweet and hopeful story” (Chicago Tribune) about love and renewal in the face of past devastation. Challenged by his Iraqi roots, Abdul Samee has obscured his Muslim identity in favor of assimilation—he’s changed his name to Sam, and even tells his co-workers that he’s Italian.

But his attitudes change when he meets Yasmina, a refugee from his father’s homeland whose own experiences have hardened her to the possibilities of love. As a tentative relationship between the two blossoms into something more, each begins to find hope in the future, buoyed by the power of family, connection and the embracing of their shared culture.

 

Blind Date

By Rogelio Martinez

Directed by Robert Falls

January 20 – February 25, 2018 in the Albert Theatre

A World Premiere

 

Blind Date is a backstage glimpse of one of the 20th century’s landmark historical events. In an era before Twitter and eHarmony, two of history’s oddest couples seek to thaw the seemingly intractable relationship between the United States and Soviet Russia. Despite their advisors’ efforts to keep them on track, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev eschew conventional protocols to discuss pop culture and old movies—while their wives mirror their husbands’ negotiations in a passive-aggressive tango over tea and fashion choices. A compelling and edgy comic journey through the intricacies of statesmanship.

 

The Wolves

By Sarah DeLappe

Directed by Vanessa Stalling

February 9 – March 11, 2018 in the Owen Theatre

A Chicago Premiere

 

The Wolves is an unconventional exploration of the pitfalls of friendship and coming maturity, as seen through the struggles of a girls’ athletic team. In this “incandescent portrait of an indoor soccer team” (The New York Times), nine teenage girls stretch, train, and argue about everything from the meaningful to the mundane as they try to make sense of the world from the relative safety of their suburban patch of AstroTurf. Infused with the raw jagged energy of adolescence, The Wolves offers a refreshingly complex depiction of girls navigating friendships, growing up, confronting the future—and trying to score a few goals.

 

An Enemy of the People

By Henrik Ibsen

Directed by Robert Falls

March 10 – April 15, 2018 in the Albert Theatre

 

Ibsen’s masterwork, “a play so necessary, so exhilarating to experience” (The Village Voice), finds renewed immediacy in a daring new production from Artistic Director Robert Falls. The contamination of a resort town’s water supply sets the stage for a battle involving the town’s respected mayor, Peter Stockmann, and his brother Thomas, a respected doctor. As the brothers become locked in a combative struggle between political wisdom and personal ethics, the economic fate of the community—and the unity of the town’s residents—hangs in the balance.

 

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years

By Emily Mann

Adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany, with Amy Hill Hearth

Directed by Chuck Smith

May 5 – June 10, 2018 in the Albert Theatre

 

Celebrate the story of a century as lived by “two strong, vibrant women dispensing joy and wisdom” (Chicago Tribune) in this funny and heartfelt family drama. The Delany sisters, Sadie and Bessie, remain best friends and roommates even as they pass their centennial birthdays. As they prepare a meal in honor of their late father, a former slave, they reminisce about the joys and challenges of their lives: coming to maturity in the Jim Crow South, experiencing the Harlem Renaissance and rising to unimagined professional prominence. Having Our Say showcases the sisters’ unique, indomitable spirits as they fondly recall meeting beloved historical figures and denounce prejudices that infect the country.

 

Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)

By Suzan-Lori Parks

Directed by Niegel Smith

May 25 – June 24, 2018 in the Owen Theatre

A Chicago Premiere

 

Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks’ “blazingly original” (The Washington Post) Civil War epic serves up “an American story as much about our present as it is about our past” (The Los Angeles Times). Hero, a Texas slave, faces a simple yet monumental choice: join his master in the Confederate army to win his freedom—or remain enslaved at the plantation. As he debates leaving his lover for what may be another empty promise, Hero must take charge of his life, even when much remains beyond his control. Filled with music, wit and poetic wisdom, the Pulitzer Prize finalist play Father Comes Home from the Wars challenges its audience to navigate their own moral compass in a country that both unites and divides.

 

Support Group for Men

By Ellen Fairey

Directed by Kimberly Senior

June 23 – July 29, 2018 in the Albert Theatre 

A World Premiere

 

A hilarious exploration of what happens when society’s new normal doesn’t seem so normal to everyone. Thursday night in Wrigleyville is “Guys’ Night” for a group of longtime pals. Instead of letting off steam over baseball they’ve formed a support group–with its “No Ladies” policy strictly enforced–in which they can vent about dashed romances, stalled careers and other middle-age maladies. But when an unexpected visitor crashes their party, the guys’ traditional notions of masculinity are exploded. This topical, Chicago-flavored comedy gleefully dissects the ever-changing role of gender in today’s culture—and proves that understanding is sometimes found in the least likely of places.

ADDITIONAL PLAYS AND EVENTS

 

New Stages Festival

Six New Plays (Three Developmental Productions + Three Staged Readings) TBA

September 20 – October 8, 2017 (“Industry Weekend” is October 6-8) in the Owen Theatre

 

The 14th annual New Stages festival of new plays includes three developmental productions in repertory and three staged readings. Three productions in the 2016/2017 Season emerged from New Stages, including The Magic Play, Objects in the Mirror and King of the Yees. Founded in 2004, the New Stages Festival is a celebration of innovative new plays designed to give playwrights an opportunity to take risks and experiment. New Stages offers Chicago theatergoers a first look at dozens of plays, many of which have gone on to become successful full productions—including Noah Haidle’s Smokefall and Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined.

 

Until the Flood

By Dael Orlandersmith

Directed by Neel Keller

April 27 – May 13, 2018 in the Owen Theatre

A Limited Engagement Chicago Premiere

 

The 2014 fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown brought international attention to the town of Ferguson, Missouri, and the festering history of race relations in America. Based on dozens of interviews with Ferguson residents, award-winning playwright, performer and Goodman Artistic Associate Dael Orlandersmith brings to life a riveting exploration of the tragedy and its aftermath, from the perspective of such disparate participants as a middle-aged black teacher, an elderly barbershop owner, and a white policeman.  The result:  a richly complex mosaic of a community—and a country—in trauma. 

 

A Christmas Carol (40th annual production)

Adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper

November 18 – December 31, 2017 in the Albert Theatre

 

Acclaimed Chicago actor Larry Yando returns for his 10th season at Goodman Theatre as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, directed for the fifth year by Artistic Associate Henry Wishcamper. Nearly 1.5 million theatergoers have attended “the crown jewel of the holiday season” (Daily Herald) since the Goodman established it as an annual offering in 1978—a time when only a handful of US theaters mounted the production. Dickens’ holiday classic is the iconic tale of greedy businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, whose sizable bank account is only matched by his disdain for the holidays. One Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts who take him on a spectacular adventure through his past, present and future, helping him rediscover the joys of life, love and friendship. Former cast members include stage and screen notables Jessie Mueller, Joe Minoso, Del Close, Harry J. Lennix, Felicia P. Fields, Raul Esparza, Sally Murphy and Frank Galati.

 

About Goodman Theatre

 

America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls—“Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marked 30 years as Artistic Director in the 2016/2017 Season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers. 

 

The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.

 

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

 

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan E. Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals. 

 

Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Destiny of Desire begins with the actors breaking the fourth wall, walking among the audience, encouraging them to relax and have fun. As they complete their tasks setting up the empty Goodman soundstage on which the telenovela we are about to watch is being shot, the entire cast announces with glee, “We are here to change the social order! Deal with it!”

 

And change the order they do, especially where the reputations and struggles of the Latino community are concerned. Playwright Karen Zacarías so grew weary of the way many plays written by Hispanics were dismissively compared to "telenovelas”, a form of soap opera-like entertainment. We are informed during the show that telenovelas are watched by a third of the world’s population - a full two billion fans around the world. Zacarías succeeds marvelously in parodying a true telenovela for the stage full of twists and turns and sexy passionate, and sometimes tragic, stories while using the play to advance feminist values in a subtle but very important way.

 

For example, when two young girls are struck in the face by their father when they are caught kissing, the father, Armando Castillo (Castulo Guerro), quickly laments his violence and cries that a woman should never be hit by a man - never be hit with anything more harsh than a single rose petal. 

 

Likewise, when the rich villainess of the piece, Fabiola Castillo (played to perfection by the elegant and serpentinely sexy Ruth Livier) seems to make you totally disgusted with her gold digging, self-centered un-motherly behavior, the audience finds out that Fabiola was herself a poor girl subjected to repeated sexual abuse before escaping the farm life and painstakingly transforming herself into a blonde bombshell, eventually marrying to the richest man in the town.  

 

The story starts simply enough when two women (one rich and one poor) give birth at the same time at the same hospital. When the baby belonging to the privileged family is found sickly, the mother begs the doctor to make a switch so that she can have the healthy infant – and he does, pawning the other off on the farmhands. The plot thickens at virtually every corner in this hilarious in this oft steamy, oft scandalous Spanish soap opera set for stage – a show that literally keeps the audience plugged in from its opening scene. The journey follows the happenings as these women take destiny into their own hands. 

 

There are so many twists and turns, it would be a disservice to reveal the plot-lines but the most important message that runs throughout the show from the first scene to the last is that each mother and each daughter born to each family (one poor family and one rich) is the most precious miracle, a blessing bestowed by God and that no matter what the daughter's talents, beauty or graces or mistakes, they should all be protected from abuse or health neglect at any cost. 

 

The set detail truly creates an atmosphere to which we can easily become lost, sit back and just enjoy the story. Each of the men and women are dressed to sexy perfection in Julie Weiss’ true to telenovela form in dazzlingly modern costumes. The costumes by Julie Weiss are so VERY the typical telenovela, the lighting by Pablo Santiago floods the stage with oink, and the golden lights and large swathes of white fabric are ingeniously used to symbolize the desert sands, which is perfectly romantic and also constantly changing. I adored the swiftly moving and beautifully lit set by Francois-Pierre Couture.

 

Although, this is not a musical a pianist provides the score and there are songs, beautiful rich songs sung with passion in Spanish by many of the characters. Not knowing the lyrics in English makes no difference as these lovely pieces bond the show together and send the emotions soaring in a way that deepens the love you feel for each character's plight without stopping the comedy flow.  

 

Now that I know that two billion people are watching and enjoying this form of entertainment, I sincerely hope the huge success of this show makes its feminist message a regular part of telenovelas being produced right now, more than ever. 

 

Throughout the nearly non-stop humor in the show, there are also current day ad libs which refer to Donald Trump, the life expectancy of Hispanics in America (the highest despite financial and health insurances challenges) and the fact is pointed out that one out of every hundred Americans are behind bars because we incarcerate more of our citizens than any other country - messages all of which are delivered in a very funny and brief way which makes each fact that more clear without sounding preachy or out of place. Some are humorous while others are strong in message, one of the more shocking factoids divulging that one person is found dead each day in the desert between Mexico and the United States attempting to cross the border.

 

Karen Zacarias’ parody of the telenovela both does the art form justice and “cleans it up a little” in terms of political correctness in the most palatable way. 

 

Zacarias knows exactly how the pure unadulterated passion of men for the women in their lives can devolve into a passionate rage against the daughters and mothers of OTHER men without distinction in the man’s mind. 

 

Destiny of Desire is a very funny lampoon on telenovelas that perfectly exaggerates the absurdities while giving us an entertaining story where nothing is predictable. 

 

Finely directed by Jose Luis Valenuela, a talented cast from top to bottom perform to perfection this highly amusing script. Esperanza America and Ella Saldana North are just dynamite as the two sisters separated from their true families at birth while Eduardo Enrikez engages the audience each time he appears on stage with his campy portrayal of Sebastian Jose Castillo. Maurico Mendoza and Elsa Bocanegra flawlessly play the poor Del Rio parents as do Ricardo Gutierrez and Fidel Gomez in the roles of father and son doctors, Dr. Jorge Ramiro Mendoza and Dr. Diego. Adding to what is already Well-thought comedic touches are littered throughout the production, the actors performing ballet moves as they switch out the props.   

 

Destiny of Desire is highly recommended as a sexy production that keeps a rapid pace, delivers buckets of comedy and engrosses from the word “Go”.  

 

Destiny of Desire is being performed at Goodman Theatre through April 16th. For tickets or more show information, click here

 

Published in Theatre in Review

The cast and creative team is complete for Objects in the Mirror, a Goodman Theatre-commissioned world premiere by Charles Smith. Directed by Resident Director Chuck Smith, Objects in the Mirror is inspired by the playwright’s real-life friendship with a Liberian refugee-turned-actor, Shedrick Yarkpai—portrayed by Daniel Kyri, in his Goodman debut. The production was developed through the 2015 New Stages festival and features a 5-member cast who brings to life the gripping account of one Liberian refugee’s attempts to find peace by exposing a potentially dangerous lifelong secret. Objects in the Mirror appears April 29 through June 4 (opening night is May 8) in the Albert Theatre. Tickets ($20-$75; subject to change) are now on sale and available at GoodmanTheatre.org/Objects, the box office (170 N. Dearborn) or by phone at 312.443.3800.

 

“In Objects in the Mirror, we’re placed directly into the lives of a family of refugees fleeing the violence of their homeland; we walk several miles in their shoes which forces us to take a good look at what we seem to be afraid of,” said Goodman Theatre Resident Director Chuck Smith, who marks his third world premiere collaboration with Smith—Knock Me a Kiss (Victory Gardens Theater) and Gospel According to James (Indiana Repertory Theatre). “I’m thrilled to reunite with my close friend Charles and excited to work with this exceptional cast and creative team to share Shedrick’s life story with Chicagoland audiences and beyond.” 

 

In 2009, [Charles] Smith traveled to Adelaide, Australia, to see a production of his play Free Man of Color, which featured Shedrick Yarkpai (Kyri), a young Liberian actor, in the title role. He learned about the actor’s tumultuous journey from war-torn Liberia through a number of refugee camps in Western Africa, before his final relocation to Australia. In addition to Kyri, the cast also includes Breon Arzell (Zaza Workolo), Allen Gilmore (John Workolo), Ryan Kitley (Rob Mosher) and Lily Mojekwu (Luopu Workolo), who reprises her role from the 2015 New Stages developmental production. The creative team includes Riccardo Hernandez (sets), Birgit Rattenborg-Wise (costumes), John Culbert (lights), Ray Nardelli (sound) and Mike Tutaj (projections).

 

Conagra Brands is the Major Corporate Sponsor, PwC is the Corporate Sponsor Partner, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing Major Production Support and it was awarded the New Play Award by the Edgerton Foundation.

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

 

CHARLES SMITH (Playwright, Objects in the Mirror) Black Star Line was commissioned and produced by Goodman Theatre and his play Objects in the Mirror appeared at the 2015 New Stages Festival. As a former member of the Victory Gardens Theater Playwrights Ensemble, Smith’s world premiere works include Knock Me a Kiss (directed by Chuck Smith); Freefall, Jelly Belly, Denmark, The Sutherland and Cane (all directed by Dennis Zacek); Takunda and the Jeff Award-winning Free Man of Color (directed by Andrea J. Diamond). His plays Gospel According to James (also directed by Chuck Smith), Sister Carrie and Les Tois Dumas were all commissioned and produced by Indiana Repertory Theatre. His play Pudd’nhead Wilson was commissioned and produced off-Broadway by The Acting Company after a national tour. His work has also been produced at various theaters nationally and in Australia, and may be obtained through Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing, Northwestern Press, Swallow Press and other publishers. Smith currently teaches playwriting at Ohio University.

 

CHUCK SMITH (Director ) is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Ain’t Misbehavin’; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind and The Meeting. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold... and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. Regionally, Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.

BREON ARZELL (Zaza Workolo) makes his Goodman Theatre debut. A Detroit native, Arezell was most recently seen in Kokandy Production's The Wiz, which he also choreographed. Other Chicago credits include Rutherford’s Travels (Pegasus Theatre Chicago); You on the Moors Now, All Our Tragic (Jeff Award for Best Ensemble) and Johanna Faustus (The Hypocrites); The Hairy Ape (Oracle Productions, Jeff Award for Artistic Specialization for Choreography and Jeff nomination for Best Ensemble); Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys (Raven Theatre, Jeff Award for Best Ensemble); War Song (The Plagiarists); Superman 2050 (Theater Unspeakable) and more. He has also choreographed productions for Porchlight Music Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Writers Theater and The Hypocrites. A graduate of Miami of Ohio University, his talents have allowed him to work and perform in London, Wales, Denmark, Singapore, Italy, Germany and across the U.S. BreonArzell.com

 

 

ALLEN GILMORE (John Workolo) returns to the Goodman, where he previously appeared in The Matchmaker and two productions of A Christmas Carol. Chicago credits include The African Company Presents Richard the Third and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Orgie award, Jeff and Black Theatre Alliance Award nominations) at Congo Square Theatre; Cyrano, Endgame, Sizwe Banzi is Dead (Jeff, BTA and Black Excellence Award nominations), Jitney, The Misanthrope, Seven Guitars, Waiting for Godot (Jeff, BTA and Black Excellence Award nominations), The Good Book and One Man Two Guvnors at Court Theatre; Argonautika and Arabian Nights at Lookingglass Theatre Company and also on tour; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (BroadwayWorld nomination) at Writers Theatre and Fabulation at Next Theatre Company. Gilmore is a 2015 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow, a 2015 3Arts awardee, a U.S. Army Infantry veteran and an ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre Company.

 

RYAN KITLEY (Rob Mosher) returns to the Goodman, where he most recently appeared in the New Stages Festival production of Support Group for Men. He also recently portrayed various historical figures in the six-month run of Assassination Theater.  Additional credits include major roles at Royal George Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Writers Theatre, The Matrix Theater, Colony Theater, The Organic Theatre, Mercury Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Piven Theatre Workshop, Theatre at the Center and Meadow Brook Theatre. Kitley received a Jeff Award for Best Ensemble in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Shattered Globe and a Jeff nomination for Best Supporting Actor in The Big Funk with Clock Productions.   Film and television credits include Chicago P.D., Empire, Chicago Fire, Boss, Detroit 1-8-7, Turks, Early Edition, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Miss March, Soul Survivors, Barbershop II, Dig Two Graves and Guidance, among others. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA.

 

DANIEL KYRI (Shedrick Yakrpai) makes his Goodman Theatre debut. Chicago credits include Monster (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Tug of War Part 1 & 2: Foreign Fire and Civil Strife (Chicago Shakespeare Theater) and Moby Dick (Lookingglass Theatre Company). Regional credits include Look Away (TheatreSquared). Television and film credits include Henry Gamble's Birthday Party, Unexpected (Kris Swanberg) and Kid Nation. Kyri is represented by Stewart Talent.

LILY MOJEKWU (Luopa Workolo) returns to the Goodman, where she last appeared in the New Stages Festival production of Objects in the Mirror and Bugs of the Pigs in the Lions, also directed by Chuck Smith. Chicago credits include Look, We are Breathing (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble); The Commons of Pensacola (Northlight Theatre); Luck of the Irish, Welcome Home Jenny Sutter, The Overwhelming and Well (Next Theatre); Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); A Twist of Water (Route 66 Theatre Company); FML: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life, The Elephant Man and understudy performances in The Brother Sister Plays and Intimate Apparel (Steppenwolf Theatre Company). Mojekwu has also spent summers in Frankfort, Michigan performing in Richard III, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, King Lear, Henry V and Love’s Labors Lost  with the Chicago-based Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre. Recent television credits include the pilot episode of Mind Games and several appearances on Chicago Fire.  

 

About Goodman Theatre

 

America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls— “Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marks 30 years as Artistic Director this season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers. 

 

The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.

 

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

 

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan E. Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals. 

 

Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The plot twists, outrageous circumstances and fast-paced narrative style of the telenovela arrive on the Goodman stage this spring in Destiny of Desire—Karen Zacarías’ “terrifically entertaining theatrical roller coaster, directed to perfection by José Luis Valenzuela” (The Los Angeles Times). Filled with original live music—arranged and performed in English and Spanish by Rosino Serrano—and movement by choreographer Robert Barry Fleming, Destiny of Desire is Zacarías’ smart, subversive and comic study of the clashes of the haves and have-nots that simultaneously honors and parodies the beloved Latin American TV serial drama. Destiny of Desire, produced in association with South Coast Repertory, appears March 11 through April 16 (opening night is March 20) in the Albert Theatre. Tickets ($20-$75; subject to change) are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/Destiny, the box office (170 N. Dearborn) or by phone at 312.443.3800. Details about special events and performances—including “A Date with Destiny” March 15 Scenemakers Board fundraiser for young professionals, “Drama and Desire” March 16 Women’s Night and $10 College Night—appear below. Hoy is the Media Sponsor.

 

“We are thrilled to welcome back Karen Zacarías, one of our most gifted writers, to the Goodman with this delightful new play,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “If you’re a fan of the telenovela, you’ll relish the twists and turns that are an essential part of the genre’s allure; if it’s your first experience, I think you’ll be charmed by Karen’s wit, ingenuity and sobering insights into the issues that confront us today. Either way, I predict you’ll be seduced by the unique pleasures of the telenovela as translated to the stage.”

 

When women take destiny into their own hands, the world transforms! On a stormy night in small town Mexico, two baby girls are born—one to poverty, one to privilege—then secretly switched. Eighteen years later the girls meet, brought together by misfortune. Or is it fate? The 11-member company includes Esperanza America, Elisa Bocanegra, Eduardo Enrikez, Evelina Fernández, Fidel Gomez, Cástulo Guerra, ​​​Ricardo Gutierrez, Ruth Livier, Mauricio Mendoza, Ella Saldana North and Rosino Serrano. The creative team includes François-Pierre Courture (sets), Julie Weiss (costumes), Pablo Santiago (lights), John Zalewski (sound), Serrano (composer/music director) and Fleming (choreography).

 

“I think the moment is right for a theatrically adventurous, wickedly subversive and raucously entertaining play that defies labels while challenging and celebrating a Latino tradition,” said Karen Zacarías, whose previous plays at the Goodman include The Sins of Sor Juana (2010) and Mariela in the Desert (2005). “Destiny of Desire is an act of rebellion, heritage and joy—as well as an aesthetic, artistic and political endeavor. Writing this play has been a joyful experience, and I’m thrilled to share it with Chicago audiences at the Goodman, which I consider an artistic home.”

 

Televised serial dramas of Latin America, Korea, India and beyond are characterized by fast-moving plots, personal stories against political backdrops, music in storytelling, and encouragement of social change. Ugly Betty, Devious Maids, Jane the Virgin and Queen of the South are among U.S. versions of telenovelas. Unlike daytime soaps, telenovelas air during primetime, over the course of roughly 200 episodes (or chapters) up to six nights a week.

 

"It is great to be at the Goodman with this play, which challenges the perception of Mexicans told through the familiar lens of the Telenovela genre,” said José Luis Valenzuela.  “Karen has masterfully created a raucous piece that combines music, humor, and a political edge that culminates in a night of beauty and provocation of what happens when women decide to take over their own destiny."

Karen Zacarías was recently hailed by American Theater Magazine as one of the most produced playwrights in the USA. Other plays premiering in Chicago in 2017 include Native Gardens at Victory Gardens and Into the Beautiful North at 16th Street Theater. Other plays include Mariela in the Desert (World Premiere, The Goodman), The Sins of Sor Juana (productions The Goodman Theater and Teatro Vista), The Book Club Play (16th Street Theater), Legacy of Light (National Steinberg citation winner), the adaptations of Just Like Us (Denver Center), How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent (Round House). She collaborated on the libretto for the ballets Sleepy Hollow and Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises for the Washington Ballet at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and has written 10 TYA musicals with composer Deborah Wicks La Puma. Her plays have been produced at The Kennedy Center, The Goodman Theater, South Coast Rep, The Guthrie, Cincinnati Playhouse, RoundHouse Theater, GALA Hispanic Theater, Denver Theater Center, Dallas Theater Center and many more. Zacarías is a core founder of the Latino Theatre Commons, a national network that strives to update the American narrative to including the stories of Latinos. She is the founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater, an award-winning theater company that teaches playwriting in local public schools in Washington, D.C. Zacarías lives in D.C. with her husband and three children.    

 

José Luis Valenzuela is the artistic director of the Latino Theater Company (LTC) and The Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) and also a professor and head of the MFA directing program at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. In 2010, under Valenzuela’s leadership, the LATC was nominated for an L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Best Theatre Season. Valenzuela’s artistic vision and community commitment has garnered numerous recognitions, nominations and awards including the Ann C. Rosenfield Distinguished Community Partnership Prize and the Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero of the Year Award. He serves on the national steering committee of the Latina/o Theatre Commons and produced the national Latina/o Theatre Festival Encuentro in 2014. Most recently, he directed Destiny of Desire at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and South Coast Repertory and La Olla – Plautus’s The Pot of Gold for the Latino Theater Company at the LATC.

 

TICKETS, DISCOUNTS AND SPECIAL EVENTS

Tickets ($20-$75) – GoodmanTheatre.org/Destiny; 312.443.3800; Fax: 312.443.3825; TTY/TDD: 312.443.3829

Box Office Hours –12noon - 5pm; on performance days, the box office remains open until 30 minutes past curtain

MezzTix – Half-price day-of-performance mezzanine tickets available at 10am online (promo code MEZZTIX)

$10Tix – Student $10 day-of-performance tickets; limit four, with valid student ID (promo code 10TIX)

Group Sales and dinner/theater packages with Latinicity restaurant are available for parties 10+; 312.443.3820

Gift Certificates – Available in any amount; GoodmanTheatre.org/GiftCertificates

 

“A DATE WITH DESTINY” SCENEMAKERS EVENT – March 15 | 5:30pm reception at Catch 35, 7:30pm performance

Tickets are $65. Join the Scenemakers Board for “A Date with Destiny”—a fateful fundraising event that supports New Play Development at Goodman Theatre. Mingle with Chicago young professionals and experience the kind of exciting new plays the Scenemakers Board works to support. GoodmanTheatre.org/DestinyDate

 

COLLEGE NIGHT – March 15 | 6pm meet-the-artists pizza party, 7:30pm performance

Tickets are $10 using code COLLEGE; includes dinner and performance. Students enjoy a pre-show reception with fellow theater-lovers and cast members, followed by a performance. GoodmanTheatre.org/CollegeNight

 

“DRAMA AND DESIRE” WOMEN'S NIGHT – March 16 | 5:30pm cocktails and dinner at Petterino's, 7:30pm performance. Tickets are $75; includes dinner and performance. Mingle with the city’s best and brightest female leaders. GoodmanTheatre.org/WomensNight

 

ARTIST ENCOUNTER – March 19 at 5pm | The Alice Center for Engagement and Education at Goodman Theatre.  Tickets are FREE. In a special collaboration with Chicago Foundation for Women, join Zacarías for an in-depth conversation about the play, as well as her experience as a female playwright and her role as an artist in advocating for women’s rights. GoodmanTheatre.org/ArtistEncounter

 

ACCESSIBILITY AT GOODMAN THEATRE

 

Touch-Tour, April 8 at 12:30pm – A presentation detailing the set, costume and character elements

Audio-Described Performance, April 8 at 2pm – The action/text is audibly enhanced for patrons via headset

ASL-Interpreted Performance, April 12 at 7:30pm – Professional ASL interpreter signs the action/text as played 

Open-Captioned Performance, April 15 at 2pm – An LED sign presents dialogue in sync with the performance

Visit Goodman Theatre.org/Access for more information about Goodman Theatre’s accessibility efforts.

 

About Goodman Theatre

 

America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls—“Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marks 30 years as Artistic Director this season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers. 

 

The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.

 

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

 

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan E. Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals. 

 

Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Published in Buzz Extra
Friday, 24 February 2017 18:23

Review: Uncle Vanya at Goodman Theatre

In 2010, Goodman Theatre Artistic Director adapted "The Seagull" by Chekhov. An all-star cast, a stellar script and unique staging made for a memorable production. For this season, Robert Falls returns Chekhov to the Goodman with a new adaptation of "Uncle Vanya" by Annie Baker. This production of "Uncle Vanya" could be seen as a companion piece to 2010's "The Seagull." There's a stylistic similarity and another all-star cast breathing new life into this classic work. 

 

Like any Chekhov play, "Uncle Vanya" is about the everyday boredom and sadness of bourgeois Russians living on a country estate. Vanya (Tim Hopper) and niece Sonya (Caroline Neff) have toiled away their youths keeping the estate afloat and subsidizing the academic career of Sonya's aging father Alexander (David Darlow). When Alexander and his much younger wife Yelena (Kristen Bush) decide to move in with Vanya, their simple lives reach confrontation. 

 

Chekhov has a knack for dynamic female characters. "Uncle Vanya" is no exception. Caroline Neff's performance as Sonya sneakily becomes the focal point. Neff infuses Baker's already modern dialogue with an almost tangible sense of emotion.  Playing off her in the role of Yelena is Kristin Bush. This character is complicated and cold but Bush deftly shifts between moods without ever losing her audience. 

 

Adapter Annie Baker won the Pulitzer in 2014 for her play "The Flick." Her interpretation of "Uncle Vanya" was based on a literal word-for-word translation as she wanted her version to sound as fresh to a modern American audience as the original Russian had in 1900. To that end, Baker is successful. The script is quiet, but the dialogue seamlessly flows into our century. There's a timelessness to the entire production. Certain conventions, costumes and set pieces span generations, yet are of no specific historic era.  This stylistic choice only reinforces the ever-relevant themes of Chekhov's complex works. 

 

"Uncle Vanya" can neither be described as a comedy or a drama. There are moments of lightness and even dark humor, but overall the play is not particularly funny. On the other hand, while there's a well of unhappiness just beneath the surface, nothing truly cataclysmic happens. In the end, Chekhov makes his nihilistic point that perhaps none of us are happy and that death is the only respite we'll know. 

 

Through March 19th at Goodman Theatre. 170 N Dearborn St. 312-443-3800

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Ten years after their critically acclaimed collaboration on King Lear, Artistic Director Robert Falls and stage and screen star Stacy Keach—both 2015 Theater Hall of Fame inductees—reunite for the world premiere of Pamplona by Jim McGrath. Keach stars as Ernest Hemingway, one of the most acclaimed novelists and short story writers of the 20th century, in this explosive tour de force drama, set during the author’s haunted years following his Pulitzer and Nobel Prize honors. Pamplona marks Keach’s second exploration of the literary legend: he earned a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of Hemingway in the eponymous 1988 television mini-series. Pamplona appears May 19 – June 18 in the Owen Theatre. Tickets ($20-60, subject to change) go on sale Monday, February 20 at 10am online at GoodmanTheatre.org and at 12 noon by telephone, 312.443.3800, or in person at the Goodman Box Office (170 N. Dearborn). Note: The previously-announced Lady in Denmark by Dael Orlandersmith will be rescheduled TBA; Goodman subscribers will receive tickets to Pamplona.   

 

“I am honored to work with Stacy on the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s beautifully rendered work about one of our most charismatic yet complicated literary titans—and a Chicagoland native—Ernest Hemingway,” said Robert Falls who, in addition to King Lear (2006), also directed Keach in Arthur Miller’s Finishing the Picture (2004). “Stacy is a voracious reader, and Hemingway has fascinated him for a long time. The opportunity to dive deep with him to reveal this troubled artist and amazing man—at once a father, husband, lover, wartime correspondent and adventurer—is thrilling.”

 

In McGrath’s new play, after the prize comes the pressure. Basking in the glory of career-defining awards—the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954—legendary writer Ernest Hemingway insists his best work is yet to come. Five years later, holed up in a Spanish hotel with a looming deadline, he struggles to knock out a story about the rivalrous matadors of Pamplona. But his real battles lie outside the bullfighting arena; in declining health, consumed by his troubled fourth marriage and tormented by the specter of past glories, he must now conquer the deepening despair that threatens to engulf him.  

 

“My fascination with Hemingway began when I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, where I read In Our Time. I felt as if the author was inside my head, expressing himself with words and attitudes that reflected how I felt—and I became inspired to read everything he wrote,” said Stacy Keach. “When I played him in the 1980s, I was somewhat intimidated; I felt simply too young to fully appreciate the emotional turmoil he had experienced, due to his failing health and his inability to continue writing. This is why I am so excited with the prospect of revisiting this literary giant now, at the right age to fully explore the essence of his later years. The opportunity to work with Bob, with whom I’ve been blessed to collaborate twice before, and work again at Goodman Theatre—so close to where Hemingway grew up—is perfect.”

 

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) was born in Oak Park, IL, and got his start as a journalist writing for The Kansas City Star after attending Oak Park and River Forest High School. Shortly after, he joined the Red Cross during World War I, receiving the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery in 1918 for assisting soldiers, an experience that would inspire one of his most beloved works A Farewell to Arms (1929). Following the war, he spent time in Paris, befriending the likes of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and published his first collection of stories Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923). Next came his first novel The Sun Also Rises (1926), about a group of British and American expatriates traveling to Pamplona, Spain. Among his many other great works are the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea, For the Whom Bell Tolls (Pulitzer Prize nomination), Green Hills of Africa, Death in the Afternoon and To Have and Have Not. On assignment, Hemingway was also present for some of World War II’s most noted events including the liberation of Paris, and received a Bronze Star for bravery for his coverage of the war. Following the war, he spent an extensive amount of time in Cuba and in 1954, shortly after publishing The Old Man and the Sea, received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Hemingway was married four times, often tumultuously, to Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gelhorn and Mary Welsh Hemingway. He had three sons, Jack, Patrick and Gregory. Troubled by financial issues, familial burdens and alcohol abuse, Hemingway took his own life in Idaho in 1961.

 

Stacy Keach has maintained a series of performances in motion picture and television projects while continuing to add to his significant achievements on the stage—both classical and Broadway. His most recent motion pictures are director Stephen Gaghan’s Gold, starring Matthew McConaughy, Edgar Ramirez, and Bryce Dallas Howard, and Gotti with John Travolta. Other recent films are Truth (with Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford), Stephen King’s, Cell, (with John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson,) and Netflix’s Girlfriend’s Day, starring and directed by Bob Odenkirk. His filmography includes John Huston’s Fat City, co-starring Jeff Bridges, Alexander Payne’s Academy Award nominated big screen drama, Nebraska, If I Stay, Bourne Supremacy, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, The Ninth Configuration, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Doc, Up In Smoke, American History and the classic western, The Long-Riders, which he produced with his brother James Keach. Keach was one of the stars of the NBC comedy series, Crowded.  He recently finished filming a few episodes of award winning Man With A Plan alongside Matt LeBlanc and Kevin Nealon. Prior television includes: Showtime’s Ray Donovan, Starz’s Blunt Talk, CBS’s, Blue Bloods, Fox’s Titus, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Two and a half Men, Prison Break, NCIS: New Orleans, and Hot In Cleveland. As a narrator his voice has been heard in countless documentaries and numerous books on tape. He is the narrator on CNBC’s American Greed. Keach has portrayed a constellation of the classic and contemporary stage's greatest roles, and he is considered a pre-eminent American interpreter of Shakespeare. His Shakespearian roles include Hamlet, Henry V, Coriolanus, Falstaff, Macbeth, Richard 3, and King Lear. He also headed the national touring company cast of Frost/Nixon, portraying Richard M. Nixon. Keach’s memoir All in All: An Actor’s Life On and Off the stage, received the Prism Literary Award. Other awards include: Golden Globe, three Obies, three Vernon Rices, two Drama Desks, three Helen Hayes, Emmy and Tony Award nominations, and he won the Prestigious Millineum Recognition Award, the Will Award. Keach was recently inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame, and received a Hollywood Film Award for Best Ensemble in the film Gold. He also received the 2016 Best Narrator from The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences in the category of Crime and Thriller for his work on Mike Hammer audio novels. Keach was a Fulbright scholar to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, attended the University of California at Berkeley and the Yale Drama School. Of his many accomplishments, Keach claims that his greatest accomplishment is his family: his wife of 30 years, Malgosia, and children Shannon and Karolina.

 

Jim McGrath’s first short play, Trail of the Westwoods Pewee, was presented at the West Bank Theatre in New York City in 1987. The next year saw the production of his first full-length play, Bob’s Guns, at the Director’s Company in New York. In 1992, New Jersey’s Passage Theatre produced his play Roebling Steel. In 1995, the Met Theatre in Los Angeles premiered The Ellis Jump, which won McGrath the Ovation Award for Best Writing of a World Premier Play. For television, he wrote detective stories for Simon & Simon, The Father Dowling Mysteries, Matlock, Mike Hammer and Over My Dead Body, as well as the children’s series Wishbone and Liberty Kids, science fiction series Quantum Leap, Codename Eternity and Dark Realm and the television films Elvis: The Early Years and Silver Bells (starring Anne Heche). He also co-wrote the screenplay for the feature film Kickboxer: Vengeance. In 2012, he produced and wrote the documentary Momo: The Sam Giancana Story, which won Best Documentary Awards at the Bel Air Film Festival and The Monaco International Film Festival. He has taught creative writing courses at Patton State Prison in San Bernardino, California State Home for Veterans in Los Angeles and The Center Theater in Chicago. He was trained as an artist leader with Imagination Workshop, by founders Margaret Ladd and Lyle Kessler in 1983, for which he worked with mentally ill and homeless clients for decades as a theater artist. In 2010, he became Executive Director of Imagination Workshop. McGrath is a native of Dallas, Texas. After graduating SMU, he attended Princeton Theological Seminary for two years before embarking on his playwriting career.

 

Robert Falls is celebrating 30 years as Goodman Theatre Artistic Director this season. His current production, Annie Baker’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya, is on stage now in the Owen Theatre through March 12. Last season, he directed Rebecca Gilman’s Soups, Stews, and Casseroles: 1976, and co-adapted/directed the world premiere of 2666, based on Roberto Bolaño’s internationally celebrated novel, earning a Jeff Award for Best Adaptation. Previous credits include the critically acclaimed production of The Iceman Cometh at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Gilman’s Luna Gale at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles; and a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other recent productions include Measure for Measure and the world premiere of Beth Henley’s The Jacksonian. Among his other credits are The Seagull, King Lear, Desire Under the Elms, John Logan’s Red, Jon Robin Baitz’s Three Hotels, Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio and Conor McPherson’s Shining City; the world premieres of Richard Nelson’s Frank’s Home, Arthur Miller’s Finishing the Picture (his last play), Eric Bogosian’s Griller, Steve Tesich’s The Speed of Darkness and On the Open Road, John Logan’s Riverview: A Melodrama with Music and Gilman’s A True History of the Johnstown Flood, Blue Surge and Dollhouse; the American premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s House and Garden and the Broadway production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida. Falls’ honors for directing include, among others, a Tony Award (Death of a Salesman), a Drama Desk Award (Long Day’s Journey Into Night), an Obie Award (subUrbia), a Helen Hayes Award (King Lear) and multiple Jeff Awards (including a 2012 Jeff Award for The Iceman Cometh). For “outstanding contributions to theater,” Mr. Falls has also been recognized with such prestigious honors as the Savva Morozov Diamond Award (Moscow Art Theatre), the O’Neill Medallion (Eugene O’Neill Society), the Distinguished Service to the Arts Award (Lawyers for the Creative Arts) and the Illinois Arts Council Governor’s Award.

 

About Goodman Theatre

 

America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls—“Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marks 30 years as Artistic Director this season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers. 

 

The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.

 

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

 

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals. 

 

Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.

 

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