Theatre in Chicago comes in all sorts of packages. I saw two excellent plays, Good People and Wrong Mountain, while there in September ’12.
Chicago is of course home to the world renowned Steppenwolfe Theatre and it was a joy to discover the theatre and a selection of good eateries, one stop along the Red L from where I was staying. Steppenwolfe were showing GOOD PEOPLE by David Lindsay-Abaire, starring Mariann Mayberry.
Good People is about the struggle to get out of the swamp. Missed opportunities, wrong choices – no choices, racism, other prejudices and Charity. But the greatest of these is Charity.
Well – is it? Mariann’s character, Margaret, seems to attract the vengeance of the Gods for no reason other than a lack of ultimate honesty. She needs to see folk as they are and not as they would be if they weren’t. Muddled? You bet.
The dialogue was sharp, the twists in the plot not always predictable and the acting spot on. I didn’t see the resolution to Margaret’s immediate problem – imminent homelessness – until the start of the final scene. I may never trust a doctor again.
Wrong Mountain on at Chicago’s tiny Second Stage – just a bus ride along, is by David Hirson and had a cast of 14. Sadly there were only 10 of us in the audience.
The strong cast led by Richard Sandoval as the second string poet who once met a great poet and Douglas Vickers as the second string actor who did work with a great actor, carried on regardless giving us a roller-coaster performance of this thought-provoking and occasionally very funny play.
Are you climbing the wrong mountain? is the premise at the play’s heart. It’s a good question for everyone who ever thought that to be good, literature has to be obscure: that the Times reader is less worthy (and better informed?) than the person with the tabloid tucked under their arm: that there isn’t a Romeo in the breast of the fifty year-old: that there isn’t quality in the work of the beginner.
Although, Henry Dennet, the misguided poet, comes to realise his own wrong mountain, Hirson uses another character, Guy Halperin a successful popular playwright, to demonstrate the despair of failed ambition. Halperin has spent years achieving production of his work and then popularity, but Dennet does it accidentally while trying not to.
Second Stage is housed in a theatre which might be constructed out of a former retail space or restaurant. It’s another shop-front in a row of shop-fronts. They operate as theatre-in-the-round and I couldn’t work out how the cast got from front to back.
Theatre in Chicago was a great experience with one caveat. Why do American actors shout so much? It took my Scottish ears a few minutes to absorb the volume and sort the words out from the noise.