Highly Recommended ***** I love going to Steppenwolf Theatre for an afternoon opening. In particular, when the sun is shining and one doesn’t have to trod through snow and slush. Such was this weekend when Rory Kinnear’s “The Herd” had its U.S. Premiere in the downstairs theater. What makes this production even more special is the ensemble members associated with the production- what a line-up! First of all, the director is Frank Galati, and one can always see his intensity and heart in a play in which he is involved. Look at the program: Molly Regan, Francis Guinan, Lois Smith and John Mahoney. The non-ensemble members are Cliff Chamberlain and Audrey Francis, making for a sharp cast that will keep you glued to the action from start to finish.
The story takes place in a suburban London area, where Carol (a glorious performance by one of Chicago’s finest actresses, Molly Regan) has arranged for her family to gather for her son’s 21st birthday. Her son, Andy, who we never see, has some health problems and is with a caretaker, supposedly on their way. Carol’s daughter, Claire, has invited a male friend, for a reason that we learn later in this 1 hour and 45 minute (no intermission) story. He is Mark (deftly handled by Cliff Chamberlain), a poet. Grandma and Grandpa arrive as well, played to perfection by Lois Smith and John Mahoney. These are the party guests, but then, another arrives! Ian (stunningly played by Francis Guinan), Carol’s ex-husband, who as we learn during the course of the “party” left the family when it was discovered that Andy would not lead a normal life.
Can this family that has been torn apart by the past they shared, be reunited and reconciled as they turn the page in their lives? Kinnear takes us on a psychological ride with our “family” and as we learn more about each member and their situations, we explore with our cast their future. Or not! This play seems very real, and not really as if we are watching one, but instead, that we are breaking the “fourth wall” and peeking into our neighbors house, or perhaps even our own.
This is a story filled with surprises and situations that cause action and reaction. Words become weapons in this taut little story, which by the way, could easily be transferred from London to anyplace U.S.A. and would then allow us to get rid of the accents, making it easier to hear the important words that were written by Kinnear. In thinking about the title, one might wonder why the spelling is nnot “Heard”, as in have the actors in this story “heard” each other? It could also symbolize the fact that this family is like a “herd” of animals in that they run over each other in order to get to what they want, each being selfish and uncaring about the others. That is until halfway through the story. This is a “think piece” that will have you open your mind to your own relationships with your own family and the beauty of Steppenwolf is the discussions after the show.
The technical part of the show is another amazing set by Walt Spangler (one that almost every audience member would opt to move into as soon as they could start the lease), solid lighting by Keith Parham, great sound and music by Josh Schmidt and costumes by Nan Cibula-Jenkins. They did not give a credit to the props master for this one, but there were some incredible props, big and small and each one is important to the overall picture that this ensemble has painted for us to see.
Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee’s 5/13, 5/20 and 5/27 at 2 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
(No Performance on 5/9)
Sundays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
5/17, 5/31 and 6/7 NO EVENING)
Tickets range from $20 -$86 and are available at the box office, located at 1650 N. Halsted Street, by calling 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org
There are many dining spots on Halsted and even around the corner East on North Ave. Parking is available in the garage next door, the lot next door, at many of the restaurants and metered on the street.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Herd”