Theater Review: Goodman Theatre brings reality of Frank Lloyd Wright to the stage in Frank’s Home

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116604115819282.jpg’, ‘Photo by Michael Brosilow’, ‘Pictured in Frank’s Home by Richard Nelson directed by Robert Falls are (from left) Holley Fain (Helen Girvin), Peter Weller (Frank Lloyd Wright) and Maggie Siff (Catherine). Frank’s Home runs through Dec. 23 at Goodman’s Owen Theatre.’);

Frank Lloyd Wright, whose architectural genius is so identified with Chicago, centers this examination of his career and the controversial relationships that so dominated his life. Playwright Richard Nelson teams with Director Robert Falls to bring to the stage a world premiere of Frank’s Home. At a low point in his life, Wright is in Los Angeles struggling to find people willing to accept his architectural style. Mallard House, built in a ravine, has been devastated in a mud slide, and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo is threatened in a massive earthquake.

Peter Weller is Wright, and Harris Yulin is Louis Sullivan, the Chicago legend who gave Wright his first opportunity and became his mentor. Sullivan’s career has been irreparably damaged by alcoholism, and he seeks work in California. With only one commission, Hollyhock House, Wright can offer him no help. Both actors recreate the characters with authenticity. There is not a moment that we cannot believe the reality of their portrayals.

The move to California serves two purposes. Wright seeks to change the architecture of the region and to finally reunite with his daughter. Played by Maggie Siff, Catherine tries in vain to re-establish the family relationship. Also complicating matters is the arrival of Miriam Noel, Wright’s mistress. Mary Beth Fisher, constantly verging on the edge of hysteria, dreams of marriage. Wright will have none of it.

The extremely canted stage at first seemed to be a prairie, but after the first few moments, it became apparent that the high desert of Los Angeles was the center of action. No buildings were seen, only the hills in the distance. The dialogue described well the architectural theme, and our imaginations made visual the homes we have so often seen.

It is the plan for Taliesen West that ends the play, and we see hope for a self-centered genius. Running through Dec. 23 in the Owen Theatre, Frank’s Home is well worth a trip to the city. If you are planning a shopping trip, include this on your agenda. Call (312) 443-3800 for ticket information.

From the Dec. 13-19, 2006, issue

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