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SpeakEasy’s “Grand Concourse” Response

SpeakEasy Stage Company recently opened Heidi Schreck’s Grand Concourse.  I saw it on its opening night, March 3rd.  It was really refreshing and rewarding to watch a different production team and cast produce and perform their rendition of a script you, yourself worked on.

Albeit on the tail end of rehearsals and tech, I was the sound design intern on the Steppenwolf’s production of Grand Concourse back in 2015 (feels like light years ago).  I was super green in terms of my knowledge of how actual “real world” productions worked.  However, it was humbling to work with and observe a local Chicago based team create this beautiful, soul-searching, faith-questioning production.  What was produced in Chicago stayed very dear to my heart and I really loved the humanity and brashness of that particular production.  It definitely had a touch of Chicago zest in its workings.

It was blunt, raw, and a personification of my then 19 year old self’s greatest fear.  Coincidentally, the antagonist, Emma, was a 19 year old college drop out searching for her life’s sense of purpose, which struck a very relatable (greatest fear) core within myself.  This production was my first taste of what a profession in sound design could bring to the audience on a professional caliber.

Windy City Times – Highly Recommended

“…Yasen Peyankov’s earlier experiences with a theater company performing adjacent to a social-services facility ( not unlike that replicated onstage down to the last detail by Joey Wade ) informs his direction of Schreck’s incisive symposium on moral crises arising from the conflict between good intentions and faulty execution. Mariann Mayberry, rapidly becoming Steppenwolf’s foremost character actress, anchors an ensemble embracing the ambiguity of their painfully flawed personae with compassion as unflinching and unsentimentalized as the industrial kitchen fixtures—including fully functional stove, sink, fridge, microwave, chopping knives, paper-towel dispenser—found in mean-street outposts providing sustenance to starving souls, however you define that word.”

Mary Shen Barnidge

Contrarily, SpeakEasy’s production of Grand Concourse felt respectfully different and impacted me thusly from the first production.  Though the script’s central questioning of people’s capacity for good intentions and faith was still very prevalent in this production, the delivery and supportive designs carried a very fresh take on this script for me.

“wbur: Art: The ARTery

…every aspect of the production hits dead-center, and with bruising force. Director Bridget Kathleen O’Leary grounds the play firmly in the sphere of the mundane. The set has a cluttered, banged-up look that fits the setting, with a row of elegantly shaped stained-glass windows floating above the utilitarian work spaces…

…Shelley’s tense and mounting doubts, Emma’s wildly erratic mood swings and Oscar’s steadily deepening panic and confusion could all be interpreted as variations on the theme of questioning, or even losing, one’s faith. The actors create flawed, likable people out of their roles. The unexpected flipside that the script presents, and the actors compellingly portray, is that there’s the possibility of liberation in accepting — even embracing — limitations, if not outright failure. In any relationship (romantic as well as divine) we hope for rapture; more often than not, like Icarus, we end up spiraling abruptly out of the sky, victims less of celestial glory than inevitable human frailty.”

Kilian  Melloy

That take in conservation with our current times of shallow good intentions, spineless attempts of charity and activism in conjunction with questioning faith based claims of which people may or may not possess really lent itself to SpeakEasy’s production and how  it sat with me such a potent way.

The only aspect of SpeakEasy’s production that kind of left a weird aftertaste for me was actually, ironically the sound design of it.  The production thrived on the mundane and stale existence of Shelley questioning her meaningless good intentions.  There was so much potential powerful inspirations sonically the sound designer could have reach from.  They may have intended to score some those emotions but it fell flat and felt sitcom-y which was questionable.


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