Upcoming Theatre

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
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 22:19

Review: "HIR" at Steppenwolf Theatre

With “HIR” by Taylor Mac, Steppenwolf Theatre continues its legacy of pushing relevant and sometimes uncomfortable topics onto its audiences. Directed by Hallie Gordon, this is the Chicago premiere of Mac’s acclaimed 2015 Off-Broadway hit. This vivid production is sure to unsettle some subscribers, but that’s the point. Mac’s script offers up laughs and lessons and is able to gets its point across without coming off as preachy.

What a treat it is to see ensemble member Amy Morton back on the Steppenwolf stage. Morton is a frequent director at the Steppenwolf but has been scarce since her much-praised performance as Martha in 2010’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” which transferred to Broadway. Morton plays Page, the mother of a transgender teen, Max (Em Grosland) and recently discharged soldier Isaac (Ty Olwin). She is also caring for her ailing husband (Francis Guinan) who has been incapacitated by a stroke. Page has unusual ideas about politics and lifestyle and is finally able to express herself the way she wants without an oppressive husband and societal restrictions.

Playwright, performer and singer-songwriter Taylor Mac (otherwise known as “judy”) is hot right now. His one-man “24-Decade History of Popular Music” was shortlisted for the 2017 Pulitzer. There’s no one quite like judy. HIR is essentially a fictionalized thesis on gender and politics in America. Guinan’s feeble character represents the fragile white male ego and Morton’s character is the at-times militant voice of the future. That future is without gender, without color, and without boundaries. Page seems to relish in abusing her once violent husband. An apt metaphor. Mac has a great sense of humor about the LGBT community and that shines through, but his script is also dense with a vital cultural insight that suburban audiences need to hear in the age of Trump’s America.

Hallie Gordon’s vision for this show is spectacular. Collette Pollard has created a fitting set for the chaos of this family. Gordon’s cast is top-tier. You can’t do much better than Amy Morton and Francis Guinan. Morton quickly becomes the focal point of the play and displays an overwhelming capacity for physical comedy and emotional honesty. You can’t take your eyes off her. Guinan is extremely brave to tread the boards in nothing more than adult diaper, or even braver, a full-face of clown makeup. Without uttering more than a few intelligible sentences, Guinan turns in a complicated but moving performance. This is likely to be one of the most talked about shows in Chicago, and good for the Steppenwolf for continuing to take risks.

Through August 20 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. 1650 N Halsted Street. 312-335-3830 www.steppenwolf.org

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Thursday, 22 June 2017 23:42

Taylor Mac's HIR at Steppenwolf

Rehearsals are underway for Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere production of Hir, a subversive comedy by celebrated playwright, actor, singer-songwriter and performance artist Taylor Mac. Directed by Steppenwolf Artistic Producer Hallie Gordon, the cast features ensemble members Francis Guinan (Arnold) and Amy Morton (Paige) with Em Grosland (Max) and Ty Olwin (Isaac). Previews begin June 29, 2017 and the show runs through August 20, 2017 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St. Opening night is Sunday, July 9. Tickets ($20 - $89) are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.
 
The classic dysfunctional family story has just crashed through into a wholly original place. Meet Paige, a wife and mother liberated from an oppressive and abusive marriage; Max, her newly out transgender child; and Isaac, Max’s PTSD-addled older brother, who discovers a brand new war zone when he comes home from Afghanistan. Hir’s crusade to shake up the patriarchy is disarmingly funny, absurd and surprising as it looks at an American family forced to build a new world out of the pieces of the old.   
 
“I started Hir in 1997, after seeing the Steppenwolf production of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child on Broadway.  Although the two plays are extremely different in style, tone, and theme, I was wildly inspired by Mr. Shepard’s play and his poetic inquiry into the broken and hidden parts of our culture. It’s thrilling to get to bring the play full circle round to Steppenwolf and to participate in the conversation about working class America that they and Mr. Shepard have been involved with for decades,” shares Taylor Mac.
 
Taylor Mac (who uses “judy”, lowercase sic, not as a name but as a gender pronoun) is a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer. Named “one of the most exciting theater artists of our time” by Time Out NY, judy is the author of 17 full-length plays and performance pieces including A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Kennedy Prize in Drama), Hir (placed on the top ten theater of 2015 lists of The New York Times, New York Magazine and Time Out NY; published by North Western University Press and in American Theater Magazine), The Lily’s Revenge (Obie Award), The Walk Across America for Mother Earth (named One of the Best Plays of 2011 by The New York Times), The Young Ladies Of (Chicago’s Jeff Award nomination for Best Solo), Red Tide Blooming (Ethyl Eichelberger Award) and The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac (Edinburgh Festival’s Herald Angel Award).
 
Mac is the recipient of multiple awards including the Kennedy Prize, Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Award, the Herb Alpert Award in Theater, the Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award and an Obie.  An alumnus of New Dramatists, judy is currently a New York Theater Workshop Usual Suspect and the Resident playwright at the Here Arts Center.
 
Hallie Gordon (Director) is currently the Artistic Director for Steppenwolf for Young Adults, where she has directed many productions for the program including the world premiere of Monster by Walter Dean Myers; George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm; the world premiere of The Book Thief; To Kill a Mockingbird; and the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. She has 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.
 
About the Cast & Creative Team
Ensemble member Francis Guinan has appeared in more than 30 shows, most recently John Steinbeck’s East of Eden last season. Amy Morton has been a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1997 and received Tony nominations for her roles in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and August: Osage County. Em Grosland makes his Steppenwolf debut in Hir and most recently appeared Off-Broadway in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Masterworks Theatre Company. Ty Olwin is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and was previously 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.
 
The Hir production team includes Collette Pollard (scenic design), Jenny Mannis (costume design), Ann G. Wrightson (lighting design), Richard Woodbury (sound design and original music) and Gigi Buffington (company vocal coach). Other credits include Anna D. Shapiro (artistic producer), JC Clementz (casting director), Laura D. Glenn (stage manager) and Mary Hungerford (assistant stage manager).
 
Tickets & Production Info
Single tickets ($20-$89) available at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org. Previews: $20 - $54 and Regular Run: $20 - $86. Prices subject to change. 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. Flex Card Memberships: 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 includean American Sign Language interpretation on Sunday, July 30 at 7:30pm, Open Captioning on Saturday, August 12 at 3pm and a Touch Tour on Sunday, August 13 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.
 
Visitor Information
Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N Halsted St near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. The parking facility consists of both a covered garage ($11 cash or card) and an open-air lot, located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($14 cash) is available directly in front of the main entrance at 1650 N Halsted St starting at 5pm on weeknights, 1pm on weekends and at 12 noon before Wednesday matinees. Street and lot parking are also available. For last minute questions and concerns, patrons can call the Steppenwolf Parking Hotline at (312) 335-1774.

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks
Connected to the main lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks offers 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 expresso is provided by La Colombe and has a new menu for this spring and summer with 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.

For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre, twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr and instagram.com/steppenwolfthtr.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

 

 

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