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Theatre Seven Handles the Torch

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 4, 2007 6:25PM

ischicago.gifLabeling young, successful artists as The Next [insert name of popular artist] is as common a practice as it is unfair. Few up-and-coming writers, directors or actors mind the attention and praise, but many hope to succeed on their own terms. Theatre Seven of Chicago’s Is Chicago, which presents Marisa Wegrzyn’s latest play alongside one of David Mamet’s earliest and most talked about scripts, prompts two reactions. It takes some chutzpah to invite comparisons to one of Chicago’s most celebrated playwrights. But those comparisons aren’t without merit.

Wegrzyn has already accomplished more than Mamet had at 25. They’re separated by a generation and then some, informed by biographies that barely intersect. They both happen to be from Chicago and the two shows paired by Theatre Seven are set only a few blocks and 30 years apart. But her early accomplishments might signify Mametian success.

The Plays

Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet: Four young professionals, two men and two women, navigating the pre-Trixie Lincoln Park/Lakeview dating scene.

Diversey Harbor by Marisa Wegrzyn: Four north siders recount a series of strangely intertwined events on a cold, haunted December night.

The Playwrights

Mametbio.jpgMamet wrote SPC, his third play, at 26, a stepping stone in a career that features more than 20 plays, screen adaptations including The Untouchables and Glengarry Glen Ross, and books largely focusing on writing and show business. The Rogers Park native’s distinct voice helped him nab the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Marisabio.jpgWegrzyn wrote DH, her seventh play, at 25. The Wilmette native produced her first four plays, all award winners, as a Washington University (St. Louis) undergrad. Her fifth play, The Butcher of Baraboo, was well received at Steppenwolf's First Look Repertory and will open off-Broadway this spring. Her sixth play, HickoryDickory, is making the regional theater rounds.

Style and Tone

SPC’s blizzard of short scenes have a raw, slightly improvised feel. The razor-sharp dialogue is brutal and showy but, once you get past the naughty words, it’s also fun.

DH is a slow burn. Director Brian Golden calls it “a departure from Marisa's typical style; it is her first monologue play, probably the most serious minded of her work to this point.”

Parental Advisory

SPC is rated R. It features plenty of sex talk and legendary amounts of swearing. If you bring your young children to this show, you are a bad, bad parent.

DH is more of a PG-13. A few f-bombs, some graphic descriptions, that's about it.

Friends in the Director’s Chair

Mamet worked twenty-three times with Gregory Mosher, former artistic director at The Goodman and Lincoln Center, who had no small part in his stardom.

Diversey Harbor is the third collaboration between Wegrzyn and Brian Golden, a fellow Wash U classmate and Theatre Seven founder. They will take on a fourth project in August.

Production History

SPC premiered at the Organic Theater in 1974 and starred Warren Casey, a writer, composer, and lyricist for a little musical called Grease. It has been produced numerous times by college, amateur and professional companies around the country and was adapted into the 1986 movie
About Last Night…, starring Demi Moore and Rob Lowe.

DH is receiving its world premiere at Rogue Theatre. None of the cast or crew is famous… yet.

Is Chicago plays at Rogue Theatre 5123 N Clark St, through April 14. Tickets are $10-20 and are available at the Theatre Seven website.