Chicago strives to be a theater town. Sure the “Broadway in Chicago” bit feels frustratingly second-rate, but a lot exists outside the downtown Jersey Boys and Wicked second runs to appease the suburban set.
Tops for drama is Steppenwolf, run under the artistic auspices of Captain Dan, Fitz’s gay chief of staff, and Julia Stiles dad in Save the Last Dance (that’s Gary Sinise, Jeff Perry, and Terry Kinney). I don’t mean to be disparaging in my descriptors; the Chicago scene is very homegrown and proud. And we like it that way.
So I went to see Mary Page Marlowe, the latest from Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy Letts. The concept was intriguing. Seven different actresses playing scenes throughout a character’s life. Anna Shapiro’s introduction in the program had me ready to experience some feels. “Time and its fraternal twin inevitability will have its way with all of us,” she said, “and, in the end, will write the story of who we were.” The play didn’t quite deliver.
The final scene seemed to carry some heavy weight that I just didn’t get. I was like, lady’s just getting her dry cleaning, but it seemed to be pushing for enlightenment in the mundane. The revelation that life wasn’t happening to Mary Page Marlowe so much as “I did it all myself” seemed forced. I think the play needed to be more expansive to reach the conclusions it wanted. It was a window into a life that was too small, too briefly glanced. I wanted more.
Blair Brown, playing the oldest iteration of Mary Page, was phenomenal and I can’t wait to see her on the new season of Orange is the New Black. Her ability to make you empathize with the character was effortless.
The theater itself was a great venue. I loved the interchangeable sets run on tracks, the intimate seating, the custom cocktail at the bar (Que Sera–a song Mary Page’s mom mentions, and her life motto probably, the drink was a take on the old fashioned). All good elements for drama watching and frequent theater-going.
Bonus tip: if you’re like me and don’t go to the theater that much because you find it rather pricey for an evening’s entertainment, most theaters run some kind of deal that you should definitely look into. Steppenwolf holds 20 tickets for $20. This means you have to call immediately when the box office opens and wait 15 minutes listening to dead air, but you get cheap tickets. WORTH IT.
1650 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
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