It’s Linda’s youngest daughter (Bridget, played very convincingly by real-life18-year old actress Caroline Phillips) who gets to lament on the difference between the number of important roles available to men compared to women. She is trying to pick a soliloquy for an important drama audition at school, and trying to resist the many voices telling her to just run with Ophelia from Hamlet. In this recurring patter about which dramatic persona to pick, the name Willy Loman is in the mix. It presages the way in which her mother, Linda (masterfully acted by Steep Theatre regular Kendra Thulin) unravels in Willy Loman style in this script by Penelope Skinner.
It probably won’t take much to convince women of a certain age to want to bathe in Linda’s outrage at the world insisting she vanish, become invisible, and above all go quickly. A self-made woman at the center of a beauty products empire, we learn the backstory of how she got to the top, and then in real-time watch how she falls. It’s a younger version of herself, Amy (also performed with perfection by Rochelle Therrien), who is the newbie who helps tear her down, along with the predictable betrayal by Linda’s husband Neil, played by Peter Moore. It’s easy to imagine how a lesser actor could deliver his role in a ham handed way. For this writer, Moore’s delivery of his lines with such spot-on affect and timing is yet another reminder of why he is one of the theater greats, along with Thulin, that Steep thankfully brings to Chicago audiences again and again. Though his role is pivotal in the story line but his lines are relatively few, Omer Abbas Salem’s portrayal of Luke is also a standout red flag to look for him in future Chicago productions. While the entire cast under the direction of Robin Witt delivers the script exactly as one imagines the playwright would want it to be done, these aforementioned are especially performances to treasure.
Truth to tell—in this script as in real life, at least by this writer’s lights—mid-life crisis Linda is not the only one grappling with wanting to be seen. Linda’s elder daughter Alice (Destini Huston) has apparently been struggling to get her mother’s attention since her Day 1. Her empathic younger sister can’t wean her father from his I-pad, nor her mother from her meltdown. Several of these play’s characters seem to be in competition for narcissist-of-the-year awards. Linda’s newfound crone status is more her current trappings. In the course of the story, we perhaps get to know and see Linda better than we suspect she has ever seen her own self.
In Keeping with Steep Theatre Script Picks
You have to admire Steep Theatre for yet again choosing a script with surprising and ironic plot turns. The script for Linda— although in this writer’s view a bit long and begging for cutting room floor type edits of Linda’s many long monologues in particular— certainly has that Steep trademark of Oh! and Aha! Moments.
Expect a worthwhile story, but perhaps not a script gem that sails so smoothly as the classic Death of a Salesman. Expect the superior Steep acting that you have enjoyed so many times before.
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.
Omer Abbas Salem
Director – Robin Witt*
Stage Manager – Lauren Lassus*
Set Designer – Joe Schermoly
Lighting Designer – Brandon Wardell**
Sound Designer – Thomas Dixon*
Costume Designer – Izumi Inaba
Props Designers – Emma Cullimore & Derik Marcussen
Dialect Coach – Adam Goldstein
Production Manager – Emily Kefferstan
Assistant Director – Arianna Soloway
Assistant Stage Manager – Maxwell Han
*Denotes Steep Company Member
**Denotes Steep Artistic Associate
Thru August 18
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8pm
Sunday matinees at 3pm, excluding July 15
-Audio Description: Sunday, August 5 at 3:00pm
-Open Captioning: Sunday, August 12 at 3:00pm
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago