Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Penelope”

Life and love! That is the substance of Enda Walsh’s newest play “Penelope”, now on the stage at Steppenwolf Theatre downstairs. This is a 90 minute production that deals with a little Greek mythology in that Penelope ( Logan Vaughn, who never speaks a line) who is awaiting the return of her husband from the wars, is being courted by other men, who feel that if one of them can win her love, will overthrow her husband and take over the leadership. There were well over a hundred competitors and now there are four!

The set is an empty swimming pool filled with odds and ends below the window of the beautiful Penelope. The basis for the storyline is “The Odyssey” by Homer, with the exception that in this story the focus is not on the hero, but on his wife and the common men who desire her love and compete for it. Sleekly directed by Amy Morton, who has one powerful ensemble of men handling these four personalities on a clever set by Walter Spangler, this is an unusual script with some very unusual turns in each of the personalities.

The four remaining combatants are of different ages and stature, each representing a season of the year and after many years of being together, victorious over the many others, have formed a sort of bond with each other and yet, each feels that they can be victorious over the other. Yasen Peyankov is Quinn ( around 40 and probably the strongest of the four) who feels that the need is to destroy the competition;  The youngest of the men is Burns ( a delightful portrayal by Ian Barford), Dunne is played by the always reliable Scott Jaeck and the eldest of the quartet is Fitz played with just the right touch by the remarkable Tracy Letts ( on a side note, Letts came in to replace John Mahoney, who had to leave due to personal reasons and within days took on the role as his own). To be honest, after watching Letts and his portrayal of Fitz, I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role with the same comic touch and warm feeling as he does.

All four of these highly skilled actors have their special moments in the creation of these different men with the same goal. While this is a human tragedy, having four men, living inside a swimming pool with barely any real provisions trying to stay alive and find some love, would not leave anyone anticipating a comedy, but despite each of these men trying to stay alive and win the war, there are lots of comic moments. Watching these four actors work, for a young actor, is a class of character development that will never be taught in an acting class- they are all powerful actors and use every part of their bodies and their voices to build characters that seem possible. Each characters personality is representative of the four seasons of the year and at the same time, the stages in our lives, and as each one tries to woo their quest, we get a deeper look inside of their real feelings.This is a little hard to do as they are clad in speedos from start to finish ( except for  Quinn in his big scene)

When Peyankov gets his turn to shine, he puts on a display that is hysterical – almost a play within the play that doesn’t end up exactly as he had planned. We see Quinn as the most powerful of the four and what we witness is far from what would be anticipated. Again, while the concept is that of tragedy, this is a funny romp through mythology.And yet, with a look at how our world and attitudes towards victory in war and love never changes.

“Penelope” will continue at Steppenwolf, located at 1650 N. Halsted through February 5th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. ( Sunday evenings only through January 15th) and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

There will be Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. on 1/18,1/25 and 2/1

On Christmas Eve ( 12/24),Christmas Day(12/25) and New Year’s Day ( 1/1/12) NO PERFORMANCES

Tickets range in price from $20-$78 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org

Rush tickets at half price and student rush at $15 (subject to availability) can be purchased one hour before performance. 20 tickets for $20 each will be available beginning at 11 am at the box office on day of performance( 1p.m on Sundays)

Students can purchase tickets online using “penelope15” as the code and purchase tickets for $15 www.steppenwolf.org/students ( limit 2 and must have valid ID)

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