Amy Morton and Alan Wilder will tell their last eerie stories in the remote Irish bar in The Weir on Jan. 20, when the second selection in Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company's 2000-01 mainstage line-up closes. The one-set, five-character Conor McPherson play began previews at the theatre Nov. 24 and officially opened Dec. 3.
A good portion of the U.S. has seen McPherson's mystical drama by now. The Irish play bowed on Broadway in the spring of 1999. Since then, it's been seen at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre and Seattle's Intiman Theatre. The Weir is the latest production in what has become a recent Steppenwolf tradition of presenting plays which have proved hits on Broadway the season before. Previous examples include Closer, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Side Man.
Actress Morton will star in the Chicago production, playing Valerie, a newcomer to a small Irish town who pays a call on the dusty village pub. There, the lonely, sedentary denizens of the hamlet have been trading spooky tales. But all stories are trumped when Valerie unfolds her sorrowful yarn.
Alan Wilder is a long-standing Steppenwolf ensemble member who has appeared in many productions at that theatre. Rob Riley, John Sierros, Larry Brandenburg and Amy Warren comprise the remaining cast.
Karin Kopischke will design the costumes, Todd Rosenthal the sets, Chris Binder the lighting and Rob Milburn the sound. For tickets and information on The Weir call (312) 335-1650.
As chance would have it, another production of The Weir boasting a Steppenwolf-rich cast is preparing to open at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. Randall Arney—one-time Steppenwolf artistic director, now Geffen's chief—will direct. The cast includes John Mahoney and Francis Guinan, both members of the Chicago troupe.
Steppenwolf opened its 2000-2001 season with its first foray into musical theatre, The Ballad of Little Jo, directed by Tina Landau. Reviews were mixed, but there are plans to restage the work in 2001 for a New York run.
After The Weir comes Giles Havergal's adaptation of "David Copperfield," Feb. 1-March 25, 2001 (opening Feb. 11). Uriah Heep, Peggoty, Dora, Steerforth and Mr. Micawber are all featured in this telling of Dickens' slightly autobiographical novel about an abandoned boy and his many encounters with misfortune. Havergal also directs. Jim True-Frost leads the cast, which also features Rondi Reed, Robert Brueler, Mariann Mayberry and Rick Snyder.
Michael Healey's The Drawer Boy tells of Miles, a young actor who retires to the country to write a play, moving in with two bachelor farmer brothers, played by Mahoney and Galati. When Miles includes one of their stories in his drama, the farmers' lives are suddenly unsettled. The production will occasion Galati's first acting work in some time. Known as the director of large scale productions such as The Grapes of Wrath and Ragtime, Galati spent much of the 70s and 80s in his home base of Chicago, alternating between directing and acting assignments. Mahoney is well known to television audiences from the sitcom "Frasier." Drawer Boy will run April 12-June 10, 2001 (opening April 22).
Martha Plimpton, who has appeared in several productions at Steppenwolf over the past couple seasons, including The Playboy of the Western World, will play the title role in Hedda Gabler. Douglas Hughes will direct the production, which will run June 28-Aug. 19, 2001 (opening July 8).
Tickets for the season range $125-$175. Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N. Halsted St. in Chicago. For information, call (312) 335-1888.
— By Robert Simonson