Theater Review: Hizzoner portrays late 1960s Chicago

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11460869655871.jpg’, ‘Photo by Michael Brosilow’, ‘Ian Bardford with ensemble member Mariann Mayberry in Love Song by John Kolvenbach, directed by ensemble member Austin Pendleton. The production runs in the Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre through June 4. For tickets, visit or call 312-335-1650.’);

With the number of theaters in Chicago, one is constantly discovering a new one. Actually, Prop Thtr has been in existence for 25 years, but the recent publicity concerning their current production impelled me to see Hizzoner.

In the March 26, 2006, issue of The New York Times, Micheline Maynard’s article gives the production a rave review, and the March 3, 2006, “Performink” also gives the show extensive coverage.

The tiny theater at 3502-04 N. Elston seats only 80, giving the audience the impression that we are a part of the Daley administration. Neil Giuntoli is Richard J. Daley. Looking in the mirror one day, he saw his resemblance to “Hizzoner” and wrote this amazing play. It begins on the day of the mayor’s death, and in the second act focuses on 1968, a year of conflict and tragedy. The Democratic Convention, the Chicago Seven, Martin Luther King’s death, and the fires that destroyed the west side all become real again.

Daley’s explosive phone call to Mike Royko’s editor in response to one of his columns and the indictment of City Clerk Jim Laski are just two instances that show, as Artistic Director Scott Vehill says, “Everything changes, everything remains the same.”

Giuntoli’s supporting cast become the people who reflect his life and values…from Scott Vehill as his priest to Varrick Douglas as Jesse Jackson refusing a job in a toll booth where graft is a way of “getting over,” these actors become Daley’s cronies, friends, and little-understood constituents. Giuntoli shouts and berates, but in a tender moment calls his son to take care of Sis, while Chicago burns.

The show opened March 2 and already has been extended into July. It seems everyone who knew the mayor wants to attend. For tickets, call (773) 539-7838 or go online at

Opening this month is Tim Robbins’ Imbedded, a dark look at the media and the politicians at the start of the war in Iraq. Playing after hours, it is “a scathing satire on the Bush administration.” We saw it in preview—excellent!

At Steppenwolf

Love Song, directed by Ensemble member Austin Pendleton and written by John Kolvenbach, examines the lives of Molly, a driven career woman, her husband Walter, her brother Beane, and a mystic character, Joan. Described as “an off-beat romantic comedy,” its dark theme reveals the anxieties and foibles existing in contemporary society.

Many of the ensemble of Steppenwolf have gone on to film, television and theater in New York and abroad, but their loyalty brings them back to Chicago. It is here that they choose their work, and the stage becomes a place of homecoming.

Running through June 4, tickets for Love Song can be purchased by calling (312) 335-1650 or online at

From the April 26-May 2, 2006, issue.

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