Hauptmann | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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John Logan's Hauptmann is a compelling, tightly written play. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine it would have received half of the praise it has in the six years since it first opened (at the late, lamented Stormfield Theatre) without presence of Denis O'Hare in the title role. It is O'Hare's startling performance as the haughty, stubborn, impatient Richard Hauptmann, the man executed for the murder of the Lindbergh baby, that really drive this play. For two intense acts O'Hare lets the audience not just into Hauptmann's death-row cell--from which he narrates the play--but also into his soul. Thanks to O'Hare's multileveled performance we understand not only that he may have been wrongly accused, but also why this scrappy, intelligent carpenter with a German accent and a shady past made the perfect scapegoat for what the tabloids dubbed the crime of the decade. One of the great regrets of my theatergoing career was that I missed Stormfield's 1986 production, which garnered a Jeff Citation for O'Hare and a Fringe First Award at the Edinbrugh International Arts Festival. Happily, I did catch Victory Gardens's powerful revival of the play last fall, directed by Terry McCabe and starring O'Hare, which ran for four months and appeared on nearly every critic's "best of '91" list. Now, with the show slated to open off-Broadway May 28 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, Victory Gardens has scheduled two farewell performances, with proceeds going to help pay for housing the cast in New York. Wellington Theater, May 11 and 12 (750 W. Wellington, 871-3000). Monday and Tuesday, 8 PM. $30.

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