Victory Gardens Theater's artistic director Dennis Zacek will appear in the Tony Award-honored Chicago nonprofit's world premiere of Jeffrey Sweet's dramatic comedy, Immoral Imperatives, opening the 2001-2002 season Sept. 14.
The play, running Sept. 14-Oct. 28, marks Zacek's return to the stage after six years, and the company's first world premiere after receiving the 2001 Tony Award for Regional Theatre in the spring. The troupe earned the award for the sort of play aborning — new work from a playwright in its stable of local writers.
Zacek co-stars with Tim Grimm, Kristine Thatcher and Linda Reiter. Calvin MacLean directs. Official opening is Sept. 24.
Fans of Jeffrey Sweet's 1998 hit, Flyovers. may recall when Iris, the financially-strapped waitress played by Amy Morton, made a passing reference to a recent trip to visit her father Dale, who was "shacking up" with old friends in Florida. The reference is fully fleshed out as the premise for Immoral Imperatives, set in the Florida Keys.
According to production notes, "When a couple of homesick Cubans pull a gun and relieve Dale (Tim Grimm) of his houseboat, he needs to find a new place to live. At first, Dale's former flame Liz (Linda Reiter) lets him stay with her, but after a few days, Liz asks Dale to vacate when her 'other ex' announces his imminent arrival. So Dale accepts the offer of a room from two old friends newly arrived in the Florida Keys — a retired university professor named Hank (Dennis Zacek), and Hank's younger wife, Terri (Kristine Thatcher). As it turns out, Terri is perhaps not quite as ready to settle down as her husband, and it helps to keep a sense of humor when uncomfortable circumstances spark unusual responses from all involved." Zacek last appeared on stage as Clarence Darrow in Victory Gardens' 1995 debut of John Logan's Never the Sinner, a role that earned him the Academy of Theatre Artists and Friends Award for Best Supporting Actor. Zacek also appeared in Victory Gardens' Hospitality Suite, Chekhov in Yalta and Dogman's Last Stand. As a director, Zacek has staged more than 150 productions at VG and elsewhere, most recently Jeffrey Sweet's The Action Against Sol Schumann and Flyovers, Douglas Post's Blissfield, Kristine Thatcher's Voice of Good Hope and Among Friends, James Sherman's Door to Door, Lonnie Carter's The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy, and Charles Smith's The Sutherland.
Immoral Imperatives marks Sweet's 10th VG production and an unprecedented 23-year affiliation with Victory Gardens, which began in 1979 with a long running production of his play, Porch. His most recent plays are The Action Against Sol Schumann, Bluff, Flyovers (1998 Jeff Award, Best New Play), Ties, The Value of Names and With and Without. His musical version of I Sent a Letter to My Love (written with Melissa Manchester) is scheduled for North Shore Music Theatre outside of Boston in 2002. His book on playwriting, "The Dramatist's Toolkit," widely available, is cherished by writers seeking to add an extra jolt of craft to their works. Sweet is a member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble.
Director MacLean is professor of theatre and head of directing at Illinois State University, and artistic director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. He is also an ensemble member and a resident director at Chicago's Famous Door Theatre Company, where he directed Joshua Sobol's Ghetto.
Victory Gardens' design team for Immoral Imperatives includes John Stark (sets) and Julie Mack (lighting).
Tickets range $20-$33, with discounts available. Victory Gardens is located in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Call (773) 871 3000 for information, or visit www.victorygardens.org.
VG's 28th season continues with the world premiere of The Glamour House, a drama set in a 1940s New York dress shop by Lydia Stryk, author of Steppenwolf's The House of Lily. Next, veteran actress Irma P. Hall will star in Victory Gardens' midwest premiere of Waiting to Be Invited, a drama about race and segregation set in 1960s Atlanta by S.M. Shephard-Massat, winner of the American Theatre Critics Association's 2001 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award (Jan. 18-March 3, 2002). Dean Corrin's new behind-the scenes garage rock comedy, Battle of the Bands, hits the VG mainstage, March 22-May 5, 2002. The season closes May 24-July 7, 2002, with the premiere of The Old Man's Friend, a comedy-drama about a busy mother, her 12-year-old son, and her live-in father by James Sherman, author of Door to Door, The God of Isaac and Beau Jest.
Victory Gardens' Second Stage series in 2001-2002 offers John Belluso's Henry Flamethrowa, Oct. 12-Nov. 18, and a new play collaboration with Shattered Globe Theatre, High Life, by Lee MacDougal, April 18-June 2, 2002.
— By Kenneth Jones