Monday, March 01, 2010

Dark 'Road' Winds Up Enlightening

Theater Review

The Long Red Road
A play by Brett C. Leonard, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman
Goodman Theatre (Owen Auditorium), Chicago

I went to this play--not a part of my Goodman subscription--obviously hoping to like it, but being a bit unsure if I would.

Admittedly, I was somewhat lured by the Goodman's heavy promotion of Philip Seymour Hoffman's involvement, but while I love PSH as an actor, here his role is that of director; he's not actually in the play. The play's lead actor, Tom Hardy, has been in some movies and is supposedly a big star in England, but I had not heard of him or his lurid past, including a crack addition seemingly well-publicized in the British tabloids. Nor had I seen anything else the author, Brett C. Leonard, had written. And having attended a Goodman "Artist's Talk" with Hoffman and Leonard, nothing they said really compelled me that this was a work I needed to see.

But despite all this, and the fact that my aunt had seen it in previews and didn't like it, I decided to check it out at half-price (available by typing "mezztix" as the Promotional Code when purchasing tickets for the same-day's performance through the Goodman's ticketing system), largely due to the Tribune's positive, though not quite glowing, review.

But while the verdict was out even partway through the 2-act play, I'm pleased to reveal that in the end, I really did like "The Long Red Road." Though the play was a bit difficult, both in its dark subject manner--which I won't detail here so as not to give away too much, but let's just say that it involves alcohol, family, death and American Indians, yet really isn't anything like August: Osage County--and complex staging that has your head swiveling like tennis spectators, it winds up being a pretty compelling, mostly engaging (after a slowish start) and thought-provoking work. Better, in fact, than many plays I've seen at Goodman and elsewhere over the past few years.

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