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John Ferrick and Sarah Goeden in Red Noses.

Red Noses

Photo credit: Chris Ocken

BY PETER BARNES

DIRECTED BY MATT HAWKINS

Season 21

Apr 18, 2009–May 23, 2009

3829 N. Broadway

Think the world’s got problems now? In the mid-1300’s, the Black Plague wiped out half the population of Europe. HALF. More conservative estimates say one quarter. But we find HALF gets the point across better. People were dropping like flies, and the living had trouble deciding what to do with themselves. Uncontrollable weeping? Self-flagellation?

For one priest, the answer is clear: make em laugh. Turning a band of desperate misfits into a troupe of deeply untalented circus performers, he sets out to prove that the best defense against a cruel world is a bad joke beautifully told.

““Red Noses” may be one of the best productions of the year so far. Seriously. Director Matt Hawkins is working at the top of his game with a show that easily melds top 40 tunes, real emotion and laughter at the lip’s edge of a grave.”

— Chicago Tribune

“★★★★★ … Barnes’s work feels utterly, surprisingly relevant in this inventive and kinetic staging. Hawkins’s 18-actor production makes great use of both the Strawdog ensemble and vets of the House, Factory, Hypocrites and other storefront stalwarts; it’s possibly the canniest assemblage of Off Loop talent since last year’s Hypocrites Our Town. Punctuated by cheekily co-opted renditions of 80s tunes by the likes of Billy Joel and the Outfield (credit arranger Mike Przygoda and the self-accompanying cast) and featuring Aly Reneé Greaves’s astute modern-dress costumes, Red Noses is a major achievement for Hawkins … Sarah Goeden delivers mute, wide-eyed brilliance as the good-est spirit of all, while John Ferrick finds unexpected nuance in his lead role as the noble priest. In his inviting, winningly unadorned performance, Flote hopes.”

— Time Out Chicago

RECOMMENDED … Matt Hawkins has directed Peter Barnes’s 1985 comedy—about a 14th-century French monk who forms a clown troupe during the Black Plague—in the cheerfully manic style of the House Theater of Chicago, of which he’s a founding member … it works freakishly well. Hawkins has stripped things down so that the show becomes a kind of communal happening. He’s also updated the cultural references: the cast occasionally breaks into Reagan-era power ballads, perhaps to underscore the play’s resonance with the AIDS crisis. The result is an exhilarating, hilariously unsettling meditation on the orgiastic response to mass human die-off.”

— Chicago Reader

What a treat to watch this tight 23-person cast at complete ease with their challenging material, riffing off each other even as the tone constantly shifts from silly to dark to inspirational … It’s rare indeed to find a show packed with gallows humor that doesn’t trivialize death, yet leaves everyone smiling.”

— Chicago Free Press

Cast

Christy Arington

as Flagellant

Paul Fagen.

Paul Fagen*

as Toulon

John Ferrick.

John Ferrick*

as Flote

Kyle Gibson*

as Player

Sarah Goeden.

Sarah Goeden*

as Sonnerie

Carmine Grisolia.

Carmine Grisolia*

as Rochfort

Kyle Hamman.

Kyle Hamman*

as Brodin

Shannon Hoag.

Shannon Hoag*

as Marguerite

Paige Hoffman

as Boutros Brother

Allison Latta

Allison Latta

as Flagellant

Anderson Lawfer*

as Le Grue

Rob MacLean

as Archbishop Monselet

Marika Mashburn

as Druce

Tom Mondala

as Player

John Moran

as Player

Chelsea Paice

as Player

Michaela Petro.

Michaela Petro*

as Scarron

Eric Pogrelis

as Boutros Brother

Eric Roach

as Grez

Michael E. Smith

as Frapper

Stephen Taylor

as Pope/Master Pestilence

Andrew Trygstad

as Bembo

Justine C. Turner.

Justine C. Turner

as Player

Creative Team

Peter Barnes
Author

Matt Hawkins
Director

Nic Dimond
Set Design

Heather Gilbert
Light Design

Aly Renee Amidei*
Costume Design

Mike Przygoda
Music Director

Clare Roche
Stage Manager

* Strawdog Theatre ensemble member