This past weekend was one filled with theater. Sunday morning I went up to the Side Project for callbacks for their new play festival very similar to the Cut to the Quick Festival which recently took place. It was a pleasure to get to hear actors saying the words that my playwright had written. I had read the play many many times, but hearing those words aloud seals a deal in a way. It is like the first time you turn the heat up on the stove. You've got the pot. It is full of water. But, now things can start to boil. I am very excited about the script, and felt a little giddy watching the actors move around the space yesterday. It confirmed for me that being involved in this festival doing this specific play was the right thing.
Later that day, the Mammals had our final callback for DEVILS DON'T FORGET. The final piece of the puzzle was Dennis Frymire. Dennis is a part of the Chicago blogosphere and we've frequently one degree of separation from working together. But over the past 2 years I've gotten a few opportunities to see him work, and I am very thrilled at the prospect of us working together on this piece.
Saturday I saw True West over at the ATC and then got to see the second of the Sea Plays over at the Goodman Theatre put up by Companhia Triptal.
I love Sam Shepard and fancy myself familiar with his work, especially this script. That can be a hindrance when watching the piece. There are wonderful surprises in the script that just can not be seen with the same exhilaration a second, third time (You can only once lose your virginity to a piece, and never again...OK not always true, but certainly my experience here). The play was staged in the round which worked very well. It was updated to today (laptop instead typewriter) which didn't really affect it. I would suggest that the less reference to technology in a Shepard play like True West the better, but to each his or her own.
My question is how do you negate the image of Sinise and Malkovich when watching this play being performed in a theater in Chicago less than 5 miles from Steppenwolf. It is a tall order. Despite that, I think the actor playing Lee did a very good job of making the character his own. By that I mean he was incredibly young, younger than anyone I've ever since play the part, but carried it off. Austin, also well acted, was updated to a more Metrosexual sort of character sitting at home alone until confronted by his brother, but for some reason he had impeccably quaffed hair. Who gels up their hair before an evening alone at home typing a screen play?
The person I saw the show with had never seen nor read True West and she was mightily impressed. So, Kudos to ATC for producing Shepard despite the possible risk of comparisons.
A gimmick to this True West is that it is in rep with a Congo Square Production of Topdog/Underdog. I do hope to get back to see that production (just too much this weekend to get that one in as well). I am not very familiar with Topdog/Underdog, but aside from 365, I really do like most of what Susan Lori Parks has written. So, not only are the plays in rep, but the brothers cast in each show are interchangeable. Some nights the Caucasian actors will be in TWest, others nights one Caucasian, one African, or both African American actors in TWest. The same variety will be applied each night to the casting for TD/UD. A very interesting concept. I am not sure how many folks will have the time and inclination to watch either of these plays more than once, but the daring in such a choice is to be applauded. I believe if you see any of the shows, you can see subsequent versions at half price. Still that is alot of money and alot of time. I am sure in the end we'll hear from someone that there were people who returned and returned again, but I say without hard numbers at the tail end of this, few will be convinced that it was a success. Ignoring that, I am anxious to see Congo Square's production which I have high hopes for.
I am going to wait to write about the Sea Plays until I see the third one this weekend... except to say that I think the first two were exceptionally well made theatre, and I am not alone. If you have a free night this weekend, do yourself a favor and do our city a solid by making the third of three plays a SRO affair. The work is that good, and a theatre town like ours should be able to recognize such excellence with butts in seats, IMO.