Desire Under the Elms, Goodman Theatre
Goodman artistic director Robert Falls made his case for the primacy of Eugene O’Neill as America’s most important playwright by “curating” and producing a three-month festival of work entitled “A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century” and at the epicenter he placed his own supercharged take on “Desire Under the Elms.” Falls stripped away the script’s maternalized majestic elm tree and replaced it with pure masculine commotion, all rocks and carcasses and visceral energy. Against that backdrop, further personified by the gritty performances of Brian Dennehy and Pablo Schreiber, Carla Gugino should not have had a chance, but instead stole the show in a portrayal both tragic and sensual all at once. Folks either loved or hated Falls’ rendering, with Broadway falling into the latter camp, but it demanded to be reckoned with and, even better, set off a long conversation that carried us through equally powerful and extraordinarily risky renditions, from other creative minds, of “The Emperor Jones,” “Mourning Becomes Electra,” “The Sea Plays,” “The Hairy Ape” and “Strange Interlude,” each of which had camps of fans and detractors, and each of which fueled enough argument to warm an especially cold Chicago winter.
The History Boys, Timeline
Best of Chicago 2009