Theatre in Review

Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced today additional casting for the highly anticipated world premiere of The Minutes by ensemble member, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tracy Letts, directed by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro. Ensemble members Kevin Anderson (Mr. Breeding), James Vincent Meredith (Mr. Blake), Sally Murphy (Ms. Matz) and William Petersen (Mayor Superba) join previously announced ensemble members Francis Guinan (Mr. Oldfield) and Ian Barford (Mr. Carp) in the cast of this new political comedy. Also featured in the cast are Brittany Burch as Ms. Johnson, Cliff Chamberlain as Mr. Peel and Penny Slusher as Ms. Innes. Previously announced ensemble member Tim Hopper is no longer in the cast due to a scheduling conflict. Remaining roles to be announced at a later date.

Previews for The Minutes begin November 9; opening is November 19 and the show runs through December 31, 2017 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Single tickets to The Minutes go on sale Friday, September 15, 2017 at 11am. Classic and Flex Memberships are currently available for the 2017/18 Season. To purchase a Membership and secure a seat now, contact Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org/memberships.

Tracy Letts, the writer of Linda Vista and August: Osage County, debuts a scathing new comedy about small-town politics and real-world power that exposes the ugliness behind some of our most closely-held American narratives while asking each of us what we would do to keep from becoming history’s losers.

The Minutes marks the fifth collaboration between Anna D. Shapiro and Tracy Letts and the seventh play by Letts to premiere at Steppenwolf.

Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, actor and Steppenwolf ensemble member. He is the author of the plays Linda Vista, Mary Page Marlowe, The Scavenger’s Daughter, Superior Donuts, August: Osage County (Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award), Man from Nebraska (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Bug and Killer Joe. Also an actor, he received the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. TV and film credits include Lady Bird, The Lovers, Christine, Elvis and Nixon, The Big Short, HBO’s “Divorce" and two seasons as Andrew Lockhart on Showtime’s “Homeland.”

Anna D. Shapiro is a Tony award-winning director and Artistic Director of Steppenwolf. She has directed several notable productions at Steppenwolf, including Visiting Edna, Mary Page Marlowe, August: Osage County (2008 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Man from Nebraska and The Motherf**ker with the Hat (also on Broadway, 2011 Tony nomination for Best Director). Broadway credits include Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, Of Mice and Men and the revival of Steppenwolf’s This Is Our Youth.

About the Cast & Creative Team

Ensemble member Kevin Anderson last performed at Steppenwolf in Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit in 2010; Ian Barford most recently starred in Steppenwolf’s world premiere of Linda Vista and Visiting Edna in the 2016/17 season, and he originated the role of Little Charles in August: Osage County; ensemble member Francis Guinan has appeared in more than 30 Steppenwolf shows, is currently in Taylor Mac’s Hir and next season’s The Rembrandt; ensemble member James Vincent Meredith most recently performed in 2015’s Between Riverside and Crazy and in a highly lauded production of Othello at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; ensemble member Sally Murphy was most recently seen in Visiting Edna and Linda Vista and was nominated in 2015 for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance in Three Penny Opera; and ensemble member William Petersen was last seen onstage in both Steppenwolf’s and The Geffen Playhouse’s productions of Slow Girl (2013) and is well known for his Emmy Award-winning performance as Gil Grissom in the CBS drama series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Brittany Burch is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and an ensemble member of the Gift Theatre. This will be Cliff Chamberlain’s 10th production at Steppenwolf, where he was most recently seen in The Herd; and Penny Slusher is well known for her Chicago and regional theatre credits and was in Steppenwolf’s Australian production of August: Osage County.

The Minutes production team includes David Zinn (scenic design), Ana Kuzmanic (costume design), Brian MacDevitt (lighting design) and Andre Pluess (sound design and original music). Additional credits include Christine D. Freeburg (stage manager), Elise Hausken (assistant stage manager), JC Clementz (casting director) and Aaron Carter (artistic producer).
Single tickets will go on sale Friday, September 15, 2017 at 11am through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Devastation permeates the set and plot of the Northlight Theatre’s Midwest premiere of By the Water – a powerful and moving production, written by Sharyn Rothstein and directed by Cody Estle, about a Staten Island, New York, family dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

 

Marty and Mary Murphy (Francis Guinan and Penny Slusher) fight to save in their storm-ravaged home and campaign to keep their neighborhood together even as their life-long neighbors and friends the Carters (Janet Ulrich Brooks and Patrick Clear) vow to leave and family secrets seep to the surface.

 

“In this play, natural disaster serves as a metaphor for the social and political change that forces generations to confront very real issues about their own lives – lives built on values that have become outmoded,” says Northlight Artistic Director BJ Jones. “Sharyn’s sharp sense of humor built on rich character development is sprinkled throughout, and the themes of justice and family values and loyalties emerge full-throated in her dialogue and her surprising plot.”

 

The Murphy’s are magnificently played by Guinan and Slusher, who give impressive performances imbuing the blue-collar couple with authenticity, humor and grit as they struggle to survive not only the brokenness of their community but the underlying betrayals within their family.

 

At the heart of this production is family and the idea that despite the mistakes and disloyalties as exemplified in the tattered relationship of brothers Sal Murphy (Jordan Brown) and Brian Murphy (Joel Reitsma), and the back-and-forth power struggle between Sal and his father Marty, that love and forgiveness can prevail and second chances are possible. Nowhere is this more evident than with Brian, who after a stint in jail, manages to find a second chance at love with Emily (played by Amanda Drinkall).

 

“[By the Water} is about confronting deep-seated personal problems in the face of a generational divide and finding a way to move forward,” Estle notes.

 

Rothstein developed the idea for the play after visiting Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy.

 

“Leaving behind a community, a lifetime of memories, seemed like an enormous leap of faith and an incredibly difficult decision, but the destruction was gut wrenching,” she says. “Yet, in front of one neat, clearly beloved house, a man who looked to be in his sixties was tending his lawn. With his whole neighborhood in ruins, with the majority of his neighbors already gone or figuring out how to leave, here was a man clearly standing firm. The image of him standing there amid so much loss was the genesis of my play.”

 

And that imagery is so indelibly visible in this production, which manages to peel back so many unexpected and complex layers while remaining thoroughly entertaining from its opening moments with the very effective sound effects to its poignant end. What makes this play so touching is not only the dynamic script and incredibly talented cast but the simple yet powerful stage design that evokes loss and pain as well a sense of home and place.

 

The creative team behind By the Water includes: Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), JR Lederie (lighting design), Rachel Laritz (costume design), Lindsay Jones (sound design) and Mara Filler (stage manager).

 

Highly recommended.

 

By the Water is playing at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, until April 23. Tickets are available at online at northlight.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

In Christian O’Reilly’s Chapatti, what you get are two superb performances by two very gifted actors in John Mahoney and Penny Slusher. Directed by Artistic Director BJ Jones, Chapatti is the dark and often humorous story about the importance of companionship.

Taking place in Dublin, Ireland, we meet Dan and Betty, each lonely animal lovers, who cross paths and enter an unlikely, but much needed relationship. Dan has lost his wife, Martha, years earlier and plans to hang himself to be with her as he confesses that she needs him and is waiting for him and that she is “Incomplete without me”. As the show progresses it becomes obvious that Dan is projecting his own feelings on Martha.

Chapatti is filled with a gentle warmth at times – and can be quite cute, as the two get to know one another, but it also surrenders to heavy emotional conflicts, where stage veteran Mahoney really delivers. Really touching on how one must feel to yearn for a lost love, Chapatti depicts an astute picture of emptiness but also presents a sense of hope and how one can be freed from the shackles of despair at the most unexpected moment. Chapatti is about the bravery to move forward no matter how unfamiliar and scary it may seem.    

Slusher and Mahoney are equally impressive in their performances, embracing their roles of a dog and cat lover and creating a believable romance by two people so very desperate to have someone in their lives. It’s a love heals all theme that kicks self-pitying oneself to the curb.    

Chapatti is playing at Northlight Theatre through April 13th. For more information and/or tickets, visit www.northlight.org or call 847-673-6300. Northlight Theatre is located at 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie.  

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

Register

Latest Articles