O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, With Dennehy, Gugino, Schreiber, Opens in Chicago

News   O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, With Dennehy, Gugino, Schreiber, Opens in Chicago
Goodman Theatre's visceral new production of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, directed by Robert Falls and starring Brian Dennehy, officially opens in Chicago Jan. 26.
Carla Gugino and Brian Dennehy
Carla Gugino and Brian Dennehy Photo by Liz Lauren

Desire, streamlined to 100 minutes and starring Pablo Schreiber and Carla Gugino, as two-thirds of a love triangle, began previews Jan. 17 in the Goodman's 856-seat Albert Ivar Theatre. During previews the run was extended by one week to March 1, owing to buzz and ticket sales. Gugino leaves the production Feb. 17, and her replacement will be announced. (The production was previously announced to play to Feb. 22.)

The 1850-set naturalistic play shocked audiences when it first appeared on Broadway in 1924. A love triangle between an aging farmer, Ephraim Cabot (Dennehy), his young wife, Abbie (played by Carla Gugino), and his son, Eben (played by Pablo Schreiber), does not end happily.

Falls' cast also includes Boris McGiver ("The Wire") and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Broadway's Cyrano de Bergerac), playing Eben's sweaty half-brothers.

Falls stated, "Desire Under the Elms is iconic. A highly passionate, shocking drama of three people tangled in lust and loathing, it's the first great tragedy from the writer who I consider to be the American Shakespeare — our country's greatest and most influential playwright. It was necessary for me to reinterpret this play with my longtime collaborator Brian Dennehy — who is considered by many to be one of the great O'Neill interpreters in the world — with two actors of remarkable depth and substance, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber, to complete the devastating love triangle."

Desire Under the Elms is performed in one act with no intermission. The production contains nudity. According to Goodman notes, "Master American playwright Eugene O'Neill conceived Desire Under the Elms as he slept one night, imbuing it with the emotional pitch of a fever dream. Ephraim Cabot returns to his remote New England farmhouse with his third wife — the alluring, headstrong young Abbie — launching his three grown sons into a bitter fight for their inheritance. When Ephraim's youngest son sets his sights on Abbie, the resulting tempest brings tragic consequences."

Robert Falls
photo by Eric Y. Exit

* Desire Under the Elms is the centerpiece of Goodman's two-month "A Global Exploration: Eugene O'Neill in the 21st Century," which includes guest productions and other events at the Tony Award-winning regional theatre.

Falls reassembles the design team from his 2006 critical and popular hit, King Lear, including Walt Spangler (set design), Ana Kuzmanic (costume design), Michael Philippi (lighting design) and Richard Woodbury (original music and sound design).

O'Neill is considered one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century. His accolades include four Pulitzer Prizes in Drama — more than any other playwright to date — and the Nobel Prize in Literature. His plays include Beyond the Horizon, Anna Christie, Strange Interlude, The Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape, The Iceman Cometh, Ah, Wilderness!, Long Day's Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Brian Dennehy (Ephraim Cabot) returns to the Goodman, where his credits include Hughie (2004, also at Trinity Repertory Company and Long Wharf Theatre), Long Day's Journey Into Night (2002), Death of a Salesman (1998), A Touch of the Poet (1996), The Iceman Cometh (1992, also at Abbey Theatre, Dublin) and Galileo (1986). His Broadway credits include Inherit the Wind (2007), Long Day's Journey Into Night (Tony Award for Best Actor 2003), Death of a Salesman (Tony Award for Best Actor 1999) and Translations (1995).

Carla Gugino (Abbie Putnam) made her Broadway debut in Roundabout Theatre Company's 2004 revival of Arthur Miller's After the Fall, for which she received an Outer Critic's Circle Award nomination and a Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut for her role as Maggie. She followed that with her acclaimed portrayal of Catherine Holly in the Tennessee William's classic Suddenly Last Summer, also for Roundabout. Film credits include "American Gangster," "Righteous Kill," "The Lookout," the "Spy Kids" Trilogy and "Sin City," among others.

Pablo Schreiber (Eben Cabot) received a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut in Awake and Sing! Other theatre credits include Reasons To Be Pretty at MCC Theatre; Dying City at Lincoln Center Theater; Mr. Marmalade at Roundabout Theatre Company; Manuscript at Daryl Roth Theatre; Sin: A Cardinal Deposed at The New Group; and more.

Boris McGiver (Peter Cabot) appeared in Off-Broadway's The Overwhelming at Roundabout Theatre Company; nine Shakespeare productions with Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Wing-Davey, Steven Berkoff, Brian Kulick and many others at The Public Theater; Cymbeline with Bartlett Sher and Andorra with Liviu Ciulei at Theatre for a New Audience; Book of Days at Signature Theatre, and more.

Daniel Stewart Sherman (Simeon Cabot) appeared on Broadway in Cyrano de Bergerac, A Touch of the Poet, Henry IV and The Full Monty.

Tickets for Desire Under the Elms are $25–$82 and may be purchased online at GoodmanTheatre.org, at the box office (170 North Dearborn) or by phone at (312) 443-3800.

For more information visit GoodmanTheatre.org.

Pablo Schreiber, Brian Dennehy and Carla Gugino
Pablo Schreiber, Brian Dennehy and Carla Gugino Photo by Liz Lauren
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