Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chicago - Three-Show Day: The Herd at Steppenwolf

While in Chicago to see the magnificent Lyric Opera of Chicago Carousel, we took the opportunity to catch some more theater. We had all day Saturday before our Sunday flight and packed it as full as we could. We calculated running times, mapped our routes, and completely skipped most meals. If only we could have squeezed in more... Two Trains Running at the Goodman! Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolf! So much fabulous theater.

First up was a much-delayed trip to Steppenwolf. After a beautiful morning (spent partly on the phone at the Chicago Cultural Center, trying to get a hold of some of Steppenwolf's 20 for $20 tickets), we hopped in a cab up to the theater, and arrived only about five minutes before the 3:00 start of The Herd. (We do not normally cut it that close, but sometimes when traveling, it happens!)

Side note: Every time we have discussed going to Chicago to see something at Steppenwolf, it's because we want to see John Mahoney, best known as Frasier's dad, but also wonderful in many other things, including The Broken Hearts Club. Also, being ardent fans of so many of Steppenwolf's alumni (Gary Sinise, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, how much time do you have?), it was a thrill to finally set foot through their doors.

Credit: Michael Brosilow
John Mahoney was appearing in the The Herd, so it was pretty easy to choose that play, basically sight unseen. A domestic comedy-drama, The Herd is written by Rory Kinnear, one of those British actors with an impressive stage career who you've also seen in everything. Really, check out his IMDB.

On a beautifully detailed set of a modern home, we meet the family. Carol (Molly Regan) and her grown daughter Claire (Audrey Francis) are preparing for a birthday party. Carol's parents arrive bearing birthday cake and enough questions to establish Patricia's nosiness and Brian's tolerance. Mahoney plays the infirm Brian, and Patricia is played by the wonderful Lois Smith, who has also been in everything.

The plot of the play is small but universal: The issues of one extended family, and the ways they cope, together and separately. The show's naturalistic dialogue was engrossing, and of course, the acting was top-notch.

(Note to the lady in front of us, whose phone rang three times during the intermissionless show: If you don't know how to turn off your phone, maybe you shouldn't bring it to the theater. Also, Patrick really wants to get a hold of you, clearly.)

Next up: First Date at the Royal George Theatre.