My journey back to the stage in 2015 has proven to be a rather gradual one. After two staged readings and some auditions, I landed an understudy assignment. Backing up three female roles, varied characters of different ages. Often the arduous task learning lines and stage business with little chance of actually performing is a major chore, a drag. But this has been different. Very different.
First, the company is The Gift Theatre, a collection of highly talented persons under the artistic direction of Michael Patrick Thornton. Having a core ensemble, many of whom have acted together for over 10 years, their work is innovative and challenging. Watching them rehearse has been a learning experience. And they're a friendly bunch that has welcomed me with open arms.
Then, there's the play. Its the first major stage work by David Rabe in 30 years, author of acclaimed Broadway shows in the 1970s, during my college days, and later the memorable "HurlyBurly", so I've been a fan for decades. I was drawn to "Good for Otto" for its characters and wonderful dialogue, but also because of its subject. I've battled much of my life with depression, and especially during transition life became a tremendous struggle. This play concerns itself with patients, caregivers and other players involved in the battle against mental illness -- and just as importantly, their struggle with a society that stigmatizes those who are and makes it difficult to find resources for treatment. This is a compelling, necessary and moving work. Its also funny, compassionate, and very entertaining.
So I attended many more rehearsals than is typical for an understudy, wanting to observe and learn. I'd not been in a full theatrical production since directing a show back in 2005, and have enjoyed being part of a creative project once more. On my own, I've not just been learning the lines, but preparing each role with enough care to both duplicate the actor's work and make it my own as well. An invaluable professional experience.
With such a challenging subject, and running at a hefty 3 hours, I was unsure what the critical reception would be. Thankfully it has been overwhelmingly positive. Review links and a few production photos are referenced below.
Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Reader