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Theater 2015-16: Steep gets down and grapples with Linklater premiere, more Simon Stephens

Submitted by on Oct 1, 2015 – 1:06 pm

Kendra Thulin as Anne, who forgets to lock the front door in the world premiere of 'The Cheats' at Steep Theatre. (Photo by Gregg Gilman)17th in a series of season previews: Company begins and ends on the shadowed side with world premiere of Hamish Linklater’s “The Cheats” and U.S. premiere of Stephens’ “Wastwater.”

By Lawrence B. Johnson and Nancy Malitz

Founding artistic director Peter Moore says Steep Theatre’s 15th season captures the essence of what this scrappy company is all about – “ground-level views of life.” That low-angle survey begins with the world premiere of Hamish Linklater’s “The Cheats,” about two neighboring couples who suddenly find themselves uncomfortably close.

Tony and Olivier award winner Simon Stephens is inaugural associate playwright at Steep, which will produce his third U.S. premiere, 'Wastwater.'Steep connected with Massachusetts native Linklater, 39, last year when he came to see the company’s production of his first play, “The Vandal.”

“We hit it off, the play was a big success for us and we’re excited to be bringing another of Hamish’s plays – and a world premiere – to our audience,” says Moore.

Steep also turns again to the work of British playwright Simon Stephens, whose “Wastwater” – which interlaces three stories about people on the verge of big changes — will have its U.S. premiere to close the season.

Steep Theatre logoStephens’ “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” received the 2014 Tony Award for Best Play. In recent seasons, Steep has presented the U.S. premieres of two Stephens plays, “Harper Regan” and “Motortown,” as well as the Midwest premiere of a third, “Pornography.”

In the company’s tradition of true grit, what Moore calls “the kind of play we’ve staked our reputation on and which works so well in our intimate space,” Steep will open the winter portion of its season with Laura Wade’s “Posh,” about a group of privileged young Brits pushing back when their power and position are threatened.

“These are fairly horrible people,” says Moore. “Not people you’d necessarily want to meet, and yet you can’t take your eyes off them.”

The 2015-16 season in brief:

  • Playwright Hamish Linklater“The Cheats” by Hamish Linklater (World premiere, Oct. 2-Nov. 7): It’s the end of October 2012: John and Anne have two children and a good marriage – they have sex, drive hybrids, and have cut out sugar. But John has been spying on the neighbors, frankly, for a while now, and at 9 a.m. on Halloween morning, the neighbors have come for a visit. “The Cheats” is a play about marriage, and how it can spiral out of orbit when you forget to lock the front door. “It’s part thriller and part comedy,” says Moore, “and it ends up in a different place from where you think you’re going. Two neighbors live across the street from each other, but they feel like they live in different worlds. Then one observes something. It’s a little bit of ‘Rear Window’ and a bit of Albee.”
  • Elite boys behave very, very badly in 'Posh,' by Laura Wade. Photo from original 2010 production at the Royal Court Theatre in London.“Posh” by Laura Wade (U.S. premiere, Jan. 21-Feb. 27, 2016): The Oxbridge dining club is filled with Britain’s brightest, best and most moneyed young men.  When their elitist position is threatened, they will stop at nothing to take it back.  “Posh” puts you on the front lines of the war between the classes, the adolescent struggle for identity and the battle for the status quo. “This is a portrait – neither sympathetic nor dismissive — of people who might feel that their relevance is waning,” says Moore. “You really get a close-up view of who these people are. They represent a power that must be reckoned with.”
  • Playwright Samuel D. Hunter“The Few” by Samuel D. Hunter (Midwest premiere, April 14-May 21, 2016): Four years ago, Bryan walked away from his life, his lover, and his labor of love – a magazine for long distance truckers. Now he’s back, without explanation and without answers, looking to finish what he couldn’t on the road.  In an anonymous highway town, “The Few” pulls together the pieces of lives filled with loss. “It’s about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances,” says Moore. “This man returns after a fairly long, unexplained absence with two questions to be answered: What’s to become of his publication and what does the future hold for the couple’s relationship?”
  • “Wastwater” by Simon Stephens (U.S. premiere, July 7-Aug. 14): Three couples sit on the precipice of a defining decision.  Set in the shadow of an airport, “Wastwater” tells three interconnected stories examining the looming consequence of choice.  The play, named for the deepest lake in England, explores the depths of human longing. “The play is structured as three stand-alone stories that are in fact interlinked,” says Moore. “There are three different pairs of people, one pair in each story, all on the verge of a large transition, trying to find emotional connections.”

Getting there:

Steep TheatreSteep Theatre Company is located in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, a lakefront community on the North Side. It’s literally a few steps east of the Red Line stop at Berwyn.

The company was founded in 2000 by three actors with little more than a shoestring budget and a desire to work in an open, ensemble atmosphere. The performing space is still very intimate. But the company has grown into a close-knit group of 31 actors, directors, designers and writers. Recently co-founder and artistic director Peter Moor announced new ensemble members including the actor Lucy Carapetyan and directors Jonathan Berry, Joanie Schultz and Robin Witt. Their prior work with Steep has won them best of year accolades and earned the company a slew of Jeff Awards and nominations.

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