David Hare's drama about the politics of religion, Racing Demon will be the first production by the newly merged Organic and Touchstone Theatres in Chicago.
Opening Sept. 18, the production will star Mike Nussbaum as Lionel and feature Chicago veterans William J. Norris (a perennial Scrooge in the Goodman's Christmas Carol) and Brad Armacost.
Director Ina Marlowe (artistic director of Touchstone Theatre) chose the play, which premiered in London and also ran at Broadway's Lincoln Center, because she feels it presents complex issues in a way that "allows audience members to get drawn into one character, then into another, and another. It's not just an `English' play."
Mary Shen Barnidge, critic for the Reader and Windy City Times, praised the production strongly in her review for This Month ON STAGE magazine:
"A play that presents lone figures chatting to God from time to time teeters on the edge of Borscht-belt comedy, but playwright David Hare is painfully earnest in his review of the tensions that beset that most staid of religions...and the cast assembled likewise deliver uniformly intelligent and articulate performances... "...it sends audiences home considering the duties of the clergy toward their God in opposition to their duties toward humanity -- and isn't that at least as important as which eight dancers pass their audition?"
As for the merger between theatre companies, Marlowe noted that the 25-year-old Organic Theatre had been searching for artistic leadership. The home of Bleacher Bums and E.R. (which led to the TV series of the same name), was being run by a collective artistic group rather than a single artistic director.
With the merger, Marlowe becomes artistic director of the unified company, now called Organic Touchstone Theatre, but which will drop the "Touchstone" and be renamed "The Organic Theatre" in two years. Talks had begun on Jan. 1, and the merger took effect on July 1.
Tickets to Racing Demon are available by calling (312)404-4700.
-- By David Lefkowitz