Steppenwolf Theatre Presents THE DOPPELGANGER Review – Rainn Wilson At Center of International Farce

Steppenwolf DOPPELGANGER

In today’s political climate, the phrase “an international farce” could describe many events covered in the 24-hour news cycle. As the tagline for Steppenwolf’s world-premiere play, The Doppelganger, the term takes on myriad meanings, as a descriptor of plot, character, and theme. For audiences drawn to the phrase “international,” the country each character hails from, as well as their political and personal interests, are nothing short of geographically diverse. The setting of the play--the Central African Republic--also fits the bill. For audiences drawn to the play’s advertisement as “farce” the nomenclature will surely ring true. A story in which a kindergarten teacher from Illinois named Jimmy (Rainn Wilson of television’s The Office) becomes embroiled in geopolitical machinations due to his resemblance to the owner of a vast copper mine is ripe for comedy.

Doppelganger A Play Bursting With Comedy

Regardless of your subjective views on comedy, The Doppelganger is sure to offer you something to find funny. That is because playwright Matthew-Lee Erlbach has crafted a play littered with genre tropes and witticisms spanning a broad spectrum of comedy. Pratfalls, slapstick, slamming doors, mistaken identities, innuendoes, and jokes that almost hit too-close-to-home all buoy The Doppelganger’s farcical classification. And that’s to say nothing of Erlbach’s witty and whimsical use of language, which adds wordplay, elaborate rhyme schemes, and hyper-specificity to the comedic cocktail. Joyfully, the play undulates between low-brow jokes and high-brow insights, kept in dizzying motion by director and Steppenwolf ensemble member Tina Landau.

Steppenwolf DOPPELGANGER

Ensemble Cast Showcases Steppenwolf’s Style

While many audiences will be interested in seeing The Office’s Dwight Schrute grace a stage such as Steppenwolf’s, there is more to this cast than Rainn Wilson. That’s not to say that Wilson is not worth the price of admission, but rather that, even barring his excellently funny turn as both Thomas Irdley and Jimmy Peterson (the staging is a riot), the rest of the cast delivers in true Steppenwolf form. Featuring an impressive turn by Celeste M. Cooper as Rosie, Mr. Irdley’s maid and head of house, as well as contributions from ensemble members Audrey Francis, Ora Jones, Sandra Marquez and James Vincent Meredith, the play’s characters are rendered with a mixture of caricature and sincerity that complements Erlbach’s script well. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Michael Accardo, Whit K. Lee, Andy Nagraj and Karen Rodriguez, who add to the play’s growing zaniness with each entrance.

Substance At Its Heart

As hectic and hilarious as the play gets, The Doppelganger still has substance at its core. Deftly handled by Landau in a quick and unexpected reversal too potent to want to spoil, audiences may shift uncomfortably in their seats as they recognize the gravity behind what they have spent the evening laughing at. While some may feel that such a twist betrays the play’s genre, to this reviewer, it served as a testament to the mutability of genre in the theatre and the visceral potential all art possesses.

Steppenwolf DOPPELGANGER

Highly Recommended

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.

Steppenwolf DOPPELGANGER

When

Through June 2nd
Tuesdays thru Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 3pm or 8:00pm
Sundays at 3pm or 7:30pm

Casting note: The role of Thomas/Jimmy will be played by Eric Slater, in place of Rainn Wilson, for the following performances: April 22, 7:30pm; April 24, 7:30pm; May 6, 3pm and 7:30pm; May 20, 3pm; May 22, 7:30pm.

Where

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N Halsted St.
Chicago, IL

Cast

Celeste M. Cooper
Audrey Francis
Ora Jones
Sandra Marquez
James Vincent Meredith
Rainn Wilson
Michael Accardo
Whit K. Lee
Andy Nagraj
Karen Rodriguez
Dan Plehal

Tickets

Single tickets ($20-$114) are available through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St), by calling the Box Office at 312-335-1650, or from the Steppenwolf theatre website.

Photos

Michael Brosilow

Creative

Written by Matthew-Lee Erlbach
Directed by ensemble member Tina Landau
Scenic Design by Todd Rosenthal
Costume Design by Clint Ramos
Lighting Design by Scott Zielinski
Sound Design and Original Music by Michael Bodeen
Sound Design and Original Music by Rob Milburn
Stage Manager - Malcolm Ewen
Assistant Stage Manager - Christine D. Freeburg
Casting Director - JC Clementz
Company Vocal Coach - Gigi Buffington
Artistic Producer - Jonathan Berry
Physical Comedy Consultant - Jeff Jenkins

 

Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago

Brent Ervin-Eickhoff is a director, writer, and educator based in Chicago, IL. He has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co., Facility Theatre, and others as a director, assistant director, and in a variety of artistic capacities. Brent served as Co-Artistic Director and then Managing Director of Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble for three years, of which he was a founding member. His productions of Herculaneum and Bison? Bison. Bison! with Blue Goose were praised by critics and audiences. Bison? Bison. Bison! was selected and performed as part of Chicago’s Night Out in the Parks Initiative. An award-winning filmmaker, Brent’s films have screened as part of the Frog Baby Film Festival and Indianapolis 48 Hour Film Project. His play Puget Sound was workshopped as a staged reading as part of A Red Orchid Theatre’s Incubator Program in 2017. Brent graduated from Ball State University Magna Cum Laude with degrees in Directing and Theatre Education, as well as Ball State’s prestigious Academic Honors in Writing.
 

Read more about him and other Picture this Post writers on the Picture this Post Masthead.

Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Brent Ervin-Eickhoff

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