The New Season: Once again, Redtwist will assemble shards of Miller’s ‘Broken Glass’
17th in a series of season previews: After two misfires, Redtwist makes a third pass at Miller’s play. Chicago premiere of Blessing’s “Body of Water” and Headland’s “Reverb” on season opening Oct. 14.
By Lawrence B. Johnson
Redtwist Theatre’s founding artistic director Michael Colucci hopes the third time will be the charm as he attempts once again to find a Chicago audience for Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass” – the launch piece for a 2012-13 season that also spotlights the Chicago premieres of Lee Blessing’s “Body of Water” and Leslye Headland’s “Reverb.”
First produced in 1994, and nominated for a Tony Award for best play, “Broken Glass” deals with a mid-life Jewish couple living in Brooklyn in 1938. When news comes of the Nazi pogrom known as Kristallnacht, in which thousands of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were pillaged across Germany and Austria with unofficial government sanction, the distraught Brooklyn woman suffers sudden paralysis. A doctor believes the cause to be psychological and begins to explore the woman’s personal issues, revealing a web of circumstance.
Redtwist, established in 1994, originally produced “Broken Glass” to open its 2001-02 season, just days before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The show drew little attention. In 2004, Colucci and company tried again. “But nobody really knew who we were, so nobody came,” he says. “It feels unconsummated. It’s a powerful play, so we’re giving it another shot.”
The 2012-13 season in brief:
- “Broken Glass” by Arthur Miller (Oct. 14-Nov. 18): While the title refers literally to the smashed windows on Jewish properties in Germany and Austria during the Kristallnacht pogrom of Nov. 9-10, 1938, it also alludes metaphorically to the fractured marriage of a Jewish couple living in Brooklyn at the time. “This man and woman are living in a loveless marriage, stuck in a rut,” says Colucci . “He has begun to question his personal identity as a Jew, a husband and father. Miller puts their day to day existence under a microscope.”
- “Purple Heart” by Bruce Norris (Dec. 22-Jan. 27, 2013): Carla’s husband has recently died, her son is out of control, she’s dealing with a controlling mother-in-law and she’s overly fond of vodka. That’s the starting point of “Purple Heart” by Bruce Norris, whose “Clybourne Park” won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. “It’s about a woman going through the grieving process after the death of her husband in Vietnam,” says Colucci. “It’s also a very dark comedy, sick and twisted. This will be the play’s second production worldwide.” Steppenwolf Theatre gave the premiere in 2002.
- “A Body of Water” by Lee Blessing (Chicago premiere, March 2-April 4, 2013): In the wake of a traumatic occurrence, a middle-aged couple find themselves utterly disoriented: They don’t know who they are, where they are or how the parts of their lives connect. Their daughter turns to extreme measures to reach them. Their bizarre predicament takes them through careening twists and mounting desperation. Colucci calls this puzzle play “an intriguing drama that examines the wisdom of embracing a pure moment of joy when nothing else is certain. It may be alzheimer’s, but it might have been a car accident. Or there might have been an attempted murder-suicide.”
- “Reverb” by Leslye Headland (Chicago premiere, May 18-June 23, 2013): A rising young musician and his girlfriend/muse are trying to shake their dysfunctional pasts, but the reverberations keep them locked in a recurring cycle of tenderness and combat. “It’s about a relationship that’s toxic and vicious,” says Colucci . “The play (part of Headland’s cycle of the seven deadly sins) is a darkly comic, brutal dissection of the deadly force of wrath.”
- In late July 2013, Redtwist will open a fifth play, the rights to which Colucci is still negotiating.
Redtwist Theatre, which began life in 1994 as Actors Workshop Theatre, moved to its present location, at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr in the Bryn Mawr Historic District of Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, in 2002.
“We want our patrons to feel they’ve had a unique experience at a Chicago storefront theater,” says Colucci , who proudly notes that the tiny venue’s 40 seats are large, cushioned chairs and that occasionally – as in “Pillowman” during the 2009-10 season – seating capacity gets shrunk to less than 30. “It’s a warm, homey feel.”
Amen to that, says Goodman Theatre associate producer Steve Scott, who directed Redtwist’s opening show each of the last four years and was going to make it five this season with “Broken Glass” until he was sidelined by a foot ailment. (Colucci and his producing partner and wife Jan Ellen Graves took over to co-direct the show.)
“I do love the space,” says Scott. “It’s so intimate you have a chance to involve each person in the audience almost individually in the action of the play. In a larger house, even with just 200 seats, the viewer can pull back, but at Redtwist there’s no turning away. That can be great fun or, depending on the play, really painful as that small room seems to become even smaller.”
- Season details and ticket info: Find it at Redtwist.org
- Review of Redtwist’s 2011-12 production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan”: Read it at ChicagoOntheAisle.com