Nothing is quite what it seems in the fictional world of playwright Bruce Norris. Fond of unexpected twists and turns, Norris’ excellent works have become staples of Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf Theatre, which will host the world premiere of his latest play The Unmentionables this July.
My first-ever visit to Steppenwolf came at the urging of an Australian friend visiting from Sydney who wanted to see Norris’ amazing Purple Heart with Laurie Metcalf and Christopher Evan Welch back in the summer of 2002. Purple Heart is a comedic drama about a Vietnam War widow (Metcalf) who’s visited by a vet (Welch) claiming to have known her husband. That production still haunts me to this day.
Three years later, I was back at Steppenwolf as a newly-minted member of its Auxiliary Council Board of Governors taking in Norris’ controversial The Pain And The Itch, directed with fine precision by Anna D. Shapiro. Again, the experience was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, in this case, pivoting on the welfare of a young girl for whose safety we feared. I was introduced to the riveting Jayne Houdyshell (currently Tony nominated for her role in Lisa Kron’s Well), who played a wonderfully distressed grandmother in this “satire of the politics of class and race.”
I’m delighted to report that New York audiences will now be able to take in this outstanding play -- once again helmed by Shapiro -- at Playwrights Horizons, September 1-October 8. While casting has yet to be announced, I’m hoping that Houdyshell will reprise her role. Be sure to put The Pain And The Itch on your “must-see” list!
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for The Pain And The Itch ticket information.
Click here for The Unmentionables tickets.
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #4 – A Blameless Life (Steppenwolf Garage, Chicago, IL) (May 24, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2002-03 (May 24, 2006)