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Theater 2019-20: Shattered Globe cues plays bringing new perspectives on this old world

Submitted by on Sep 6, 2019 – 5:00 pm

Deanna Reed-Foster, left, and Rebecca Jordan are featured in Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Be Here Now,” the season opener at Shattered Globe Theatre. (Joe Martinez photo)

Second in a series of season previews: In offbeat opener, a devout nihilist grapples with an unfamiliar state of mind: happiness.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

Sandy Shinner, in her sixth season as artistic director of Shattered Globe Theatre, describes a common thread running through the company’s new season of three plays as “seeing the world in a new way.” One’s personal world, she means, of course: “You think you know where you stand, then something happens and you have to recalibrate.”

Shinner knows very well how Shattered Globe’s bold little band of players stands in its producing home at Theatre Wit, where all three of this year’s shows will be found. She sees the conjoined spaces of Wit and next-door-neighbor Stage 773 as a community of presenters and audiences. “At Theatre Wit, we create from the ground up,” she says, “and it’s just the right size for the intimacy and impact we want to achieve — 80 to 100 seats. We have a stable, solid audience there.”

At the top of the season are the Chicago premieres of Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Be Here Now,” an edgy comedy about a confirmed nihilist whose peculiar crisis is finding a brighter side to life, and Kevin Artigue’s “Sheepdog,” about the volatile, passionate love affair between two cops, an African-American woman and a white man. Tense relationships and leaps over time, even into the future, fuel the finale, Andrew Bovell’s “When the Rain Stops Falling.”

The 2019-20 season in brief:
  • Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer

    “Be Here Now” by Deborah Zoe Laufer (Sept. 8-Oct. 19): Bari, an atheist and misanthrope, loses her job teaching nihilism in New York City and ends up working in a fulfillment center in her small hometown. Her empathetic co-workers push her toward yoga, meditation, and a blind date in the pursuit of happiness. But recently, her recurring headaches have gotten more intense, manifesting as ecstatic and almost religious experiences – and they are changing her entire outlook. She’s almost…happy. When she finds out that these rapturous headaches may be killing her, Bari needs to choose between a shortened, joyful life and risking a return to her miserable past. It adds up to a funny and poignant quest for meaning in modern life. “We wanted to do a comedy,” says Shinner, who will direct the show, “but we’re known for a little darker work. So we decided on a comedy with serious underpinnings. It asks the question: What does happiness look like? As a confirmed nihilist, this woman has always looked at the world without any connection. But when she is diagnosed with a medical condition, she begins to see things differently.”

  • Playwright Kevin Artigue

    “Sheepdog” by Kevin Artigue (Jan. 19-Feb. 29, 2000): Amina and Ryan are both officers in the Cleveland police force. Amina is black, Ryan is white, and they are falling deeply and passionately in love. Still, as officers of the law, they pride themselves on moral and ethical conduct. They are also committed to guarding the “sheep” (citizens) from the “wolves” (predators). When a police-involved shooting roils the department, the intoxication of young love spirals into confusion and self-doubt. What unfolds is a mystery inside a love story with high stakes and no easy answers. And Amina’s dogged pursuit of the truth may exact a devastating toll. “When we read this remarkable play, all us were immediately in agreement that we had to do it,” says Shinner. “We worked really hard to obtain the rights. Wardell Julius Clark (who directs) met with the playwright. Essentially, it’s about two people in love who are buffered by circumstances around them. It flows back and forth in time, narrated by the African American woman. And it’s not ‘Chicago P.D.’ at all!”

  • Playwright Andrew Bovell

    “When the Rain Stops Falling” by Andrew Bovell (April 26-June 6, 2020): Flowing in time from 1959 to 2039, an epic family saga plays out across two continents and four generations. In the year 2039, rain falls in the desert of Australia as a father waits to reunite with his estranged son. A pivotal conversation unspools in London in 1988 as young Gabriel Law confronts his alcoholic mother about seven cryptic postcards his mysterious father sent from the outback. As Gabriel attempts to retrace his father’s footsteps, the past begins to inform the present. “When the Rain Stops Falling” creates a thematic mosaic of secrecy, parentage and the echoing impact of the trespasses of those who came before. “It’s a mystery, a metaphorical play,” says Shinner, “and I don’t want to give away too much. It’s about how one generation impacts the next. It’s not realistic at all: Sometimes all the characters are on stage at the same time, communicating across time. But it has the ring of truth.”

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