The Herd | Steppenwolf Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

The Herd Member Picks The Short List (Theater) Recommended Image Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 14 2015

In terms of casting, Steppenwolf Theatre's production of The Herd is an old-home-week pleasure a la the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies. Just as the two Marigolds feature an honor roll of senior Brit actors, Rory Kinnear's 2013 play is blessed by the presence of celebrated Steppenwolf ensemble elders: Lois Smith and John Mahoney, Molly Regan and Francis Guinan.

Along with comparative whippersnappers Audrey Francis and Cliff Chamberlain, they form three generations of a middle-class English family long since devastated by the arrival of Andy, a son born with a profound mental disability. Over the course of 21 years, Andy's endless needs have at once distorted and crystallized the personalities of those around him. Daddy Ian (Guinan) simply lit out when Andy was five. Grandpa Brian (Mahoney) maintains a resolutely jolly demeanor. The women run a gamut of bitterness, from acidic grandma Patricia (Smith) to volcanic older sister Claire (Francis). Mom Carol (Regan) is all grim determination and foxhole wit. Andy's putative birthday party incites everyone to paroxysms of self-justification and rebuke.

Kinnear's dialogue is often funny in an if-you-can't-say-anything-nice-come-sit-by-me sort of way. Vicious, too, when the gloves come off, which happens almost immediately. There's something more, though: a sense of the tragic—the classically tragic—in the hopelessness of people nearly as handicapped as Andy by their inability to be anything but what they are. The play suffers from holes and contrivances, especially near the end, when Kinnear is trying to manipulate events toward his final moment. Yet when he gets to that moment, it's perfect. —Tony Adler

Price: $20-$86


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