Tony Award-honored Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago will kick off its 2001-2002 Second Stage season Oct. 19 with the Windy City premiere of John Belluso's Henry Flamethrowa.
Inspired by real-life events, the topical play, winner of the 2000 Theatre Visions Fund Award for best new play by an emerging playwright, details "a controversial modern-day miracle in small town America." Previews began Oct. 12. Performances continue to Nov. 18. The play had its premiere at Trinity Rep.
According to VG, "Henry Flamethrowa is the story of a very unusual sister and brother, Lilja and Henry. Lilja, only 12-years-old, lies in a coma behind a glass wall, and at her father's invitation, people come from all over the country seeking her miraculous healing powers. Meanwhile, 16 year-old Henry thinks the entire spectacle may be demonic rather than divine, thus he keeps to his room, losing himself in books and in the dark recesses of the Internet. When a reporter arrives to learn if Lilja is truly the instrument of the Virgin Mary's divine mercy, will Henry be driven to become the instrument of God's terrible vengeance?"
The play is presented as part of the Victory Gardens Access Project, which features works by or about people with disabilities. Susan Nussbaum directs.
Playwright Belluso has been a wheelchair-user since the age of 13. He "focuses on the experience of disability through humor and by placing disability within its proper historical context," according to a statement. He is a member of New Dramatists, and the recipient of Mark Taper Forum's 1998 Richard Sherwood Award for Emerging Theatre Artists, the 1998 VSA Arts Playwright Discovery Award, an artist residency at Millay Colony for the Arts, the 1995 John Golden Playwriting Prize and the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Dramatic Writing Program's 1996 Graduate Playwriting Award. He earned his bachelors and masters degrees from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied with Tony Kushner, John Guare, Tina Howe and Eduardo Machado among others. Justin Cholewa, David Pasquesi and Janelle Snow star. Designers are Geoffrey Bushor (lights), Ben Getting (sound), Kathryn Ross (set) and Francis Maggio (costumes).
The staging is in the VG Upstairs Studio, one of four spaces at the nonprofit known for new and recent works. Tickets are $22. Victory Gardens Theater is at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. For ticket information, all (773) 871-3000 or visit www.victorygardens.org.
Victory Gardens, in association with Shattered Globe Theater Company, will also present Lee MacDougall's High Life, April 18-June 2, 2002, as part of its Second Stage series. "Literally a 'killer comedy,' this frank and funny play is the story of four drug-addicted ex-cons, and their attempt to pull off the ultimate bank heist in Miami," according to the theatre. Shattered Globe ensemble members Joe Forbrich, Steve Key, Brian Pudill and Joe Sikora are featured, with Dado directing.
— By Kenneth Jones