Sumptuous opera music fills Court Theatre, and then he emerges from behind a plush velvet curtain…
One infers from the last line of his script The Originalist, viz. “…first step in our recovery..”- and many harbingers before—that playwright John Strand aims for his vivid portrait of the recently deceased Supreme Court force and icon of the ultra-right, Scalia, to in some way contribute to a melting of our divide.
This is the mission, in fact, of Scalia’s imagined super-liberal law clerk Cat (played by actress Jade Wheeler) to bravely go beyond the stereotype of “monster” that her circle boxes Antonin Scalia (played by Edward Gero) in. It’s braver to fight to find your opposite in the middle, she admonishes us.
How these two antipodal minds come to respect – and love --one another is the story of The Originalist. Like just about any made-for-TV movie of historical fiction, you know how it will end right from the gitgo—no surprises. The meat of the story is more in its drilling down to distill the hard-edged judicial philosophy of this man into something we non-jurists can better digest.
We also are dared to look beyond to find that cuddly Antonin that is loved by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and who returns her ardor back with spirit. Wasn’t that relationship always a puzzle to you—fellow diehard progressive—shared love of opera notwithstanding??
This writer is likely not alone in feeling unmoved by this explication of so-called originalism. If anything, many of us are likely goaded by this play to want to roll our eyes at the Grand Canyon-sized deficits in Scalia’s philosophy, self-awareness, and recoil from his ever ready gun ‘totin and liberal baiting swagger. That Scalia clicks on a human level with this imagined liberal intern Kat more than he does with Kat’s nemesis—her right wing opportunist fellow Harvard Law student Brad (Brett Mack) who worships the ground that Scalia walks on – isn’t unexpected. Yes, we are human. Bonds happen...
That said-- Do plan to leaf through the copy of the US Constitution handed to you with your program with new eyes, renewed reverence, and passion. That you will likely do so speaks to the considerable power of this play. Plan to be engaged anew in the visions of our founding fathers.
Then, plan also to shout Bravo! Brava! in opera fan fashion.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Playwright: John Strand
Director: Molly Smith; with Associate Director: Seema Sueko
Cast: Edward Gero (Justice Antonin Scalia), Jade Wheeler (Cat) and Brett Mack (Brad).
Creative Team: Misha Kachman (scenic design), Joseph P. Salasovich (costume design),Collin K. Bills (lighting design), and Eric Shimelonis (sound design). The production stage managers are Susan R. White and Amanda Weener-Frederick.
Thru June 10
Wed & Thurs: 7:30 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 3:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Sundays: 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
5535 S. Ellis Ave.