GRACE

By Craig Wright
Directed by Co-Artistic Director Georgette Verdin

May 4 - June 3

Previews: May 4-6
Press opening: Monday, May 7 at 8 pm

Steve and Sarah have a plan. With nothing more than a little start-up cash and a lot of faith, the couple picks up from their Minnesota home to start a new life in sunny Florida, opening a chain of evangelically-themed motels to spread the good Word while reaping some divine financial benefits. Meanwhile, their new neighbor Sam is in an existential quandary of his own: recently widowed and badly injured, he's faithless, bitter and hardly in the mood for new friends, sent by God or otherwise. As their lives become entwined, and their destinies made clear, all three will come to question their own beliefs and fears.

"Under Georgette Verdin’s divine direction this heavenly hit is impeccably cast. As Sam, Linder strikes a bewitching balance between brooding and endearing. Lino’s portrayal of Steve, the antagonist, embodies his Job-esque plight. Walter Brody as Karl, the wickedly witted exterminator, generates thought-provoking quandaries. Berner Taylor’s portrayal of Sarah encompasses the character’s complex core of conviction and compassion. In fact, her infernal final moments continue to flash through my mind."  – Alyssa Dyksterhouse (PerformInk Chicago)

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Press

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Craig Wright’s Grace is a powerful, intensely in-your-face drama about faith and science and the point at which they converge. It is full of dark humor and impassioned conversation, its characters are sharply written, and it begs a provocative question about the role of faith in our lives. Directed by Interrobang co-artistic director Georgette Verdin, this play… will stay with you long after it is over.

The acting, guided by Verdin, is dynamic and impassioned. Steve is a ball of unstoppable energy… Lino plays him beautifully.

Linder inhabits a similar shell from the start: devastated by his fiancée’s death… His face hidden even from himself by a mask, he seems less than a whole person. Linder’s ability to get us to see through the mask as Sara does is what shapes his character.

Sara is the least histrionic character of the three and the most complex. Because she cannot rely on any easy physical traits, Taylor is forced to internalize, and we can sense her confused emotions from the very start. In one scene in which she reveals a key prayer from her life to Sam, she practically glows while reciting it, and we can see how the memory energizes her even when her life is changing and things are far less certain.

The playwright has all of this taking place on a single set (beautifully designed by Pauline Olesky)… Richie Vavrina’s lighting and, especially, Erik Siegling’s sound design help set the stage. Verdin, for her part, has put all of this together with crisp pacing and realistic character interactions, and her blocking in the backwards sequences is outstanding…

This is a show that deserves to be seen: a brilliant, vivid, original piece in a provocative production.
— Karen Topham (ChicagoOnstage.com)
 
 
So, is there a God? Maybe God has more to do with disappointment, rude awakening and learning by mistakes than sky-cracking miracles. At least that’s what comes through in this gob-smack of a play. The casting for these challenging roles is superb. Joe Lino, even in the most trying of scenes, never lets Steve’s enthusiasm and child-like belief wane. Laura Berner Taylor, as the faithful Christian Sarah, never allows the audience to fully trust Steve. She’s loyal, loving, but practical. She conveys the love Sam needs to heal. Evan Linder rises to the role of a NASA engineer who is overcome with grief but comes quickly to his senses in the face of a religious fanatic and his generous and loving wife after receiving the blessing of her company.

Grace with its powerful cast, unflinching direction and strong message should be on the must see list…
— Ruth Smerling (TheatreWorld Internet Magazine)
 
 
Under Georgette Verdin’s divine direction this heavenly hit is impeccably cast. As Sam, Linder strikes a bewitching balance between brooding and endearing. Lino’s portrayal of Steve, the antagonist, embodies his Job-esque plight. Walter Brody as Karl, the wickedly witted exterminator, generates thought-provoking quandaries. Berner Taylor’s portrayal of Sarah encompasses the character’s complex core of conviction and compassion. In fact, her infernal final moments continue to flash through my mind.

Pauline Oleksy’s set transports us to Florida complete with rattan furniture, a bowl of shells, and artwork evocative a panhandle state vacation rental. I could almost smell the salt air. Richard Vavrina‘s lighting vacillates from eerie to ethereal. Most notably, in the opening scene he fashions a hellish atmosphere via a ceiling fan.
— Alyssa Dyksterhouse (PerformInk Chicago)
The cast is superb. Evan Linder… plays the NASA engineer as the strong voice of logic and science. This is in direct contrast to Joe Lino… as the husband, who expertly portrays a “Jesus Freak”. Laura Berner Taylor… plays the wife who has faith, but she isn’t evangelical. She is on the middle ground between them. Lastly is Walter Brody as the exterminator, who has quite a story to tell.

The sound design by Erik Siegling does a fantastic job setting the atmosphere. These are a few of his original pieces for this production.
— Quinn Delaney (PlaylistHQ)
… Wright’s characters are engaging and carefully observed throughout (and brought compellingly to life in director Georgette Verdin’s beautifully acted production for Interrobang), and the script’s numerous brutal monologues are stunning.
— Justin Hayford (Chicago Reader)
… there is no shortage of theater sizzle when it comes to the acting talent and creative team. Pauline Oleksy’s set design is so convincing you too may be tempted to call your good friend in Coral Springs to ask if she donated her living room furniture to Interrobang. Ominous music that presages this play’s beginning and end (same) – Sound Design Erik Siegling — is hauntingly appropriate. The way in which director Georgette Verdin moves the neighbors through one space as if it were two apartments, helps to underline a theme of the two disparate worlds of the protagonists in the story.

More than anything, it is the performances that make GRACE a Recommended Best Play pick. All four roles present these actors with challenges of keeping their character real. They ace these tests with grace.
— Amy Munice (Picture this Post)
Interrobang Theatre Project has had a very good year… With “Grace” and its tightly-knit plot structure and small ensemble of four actors, Interrobang ends their season with a bang — literally… Director Georgette Verdin (who is also the Co-Artistic Director of Interrobang) has done an impressive job of delineating the specific locations and changes in mood as “Grace” moves from the comedic to the tragic. She is supported quite nicely in keeping this from becoming perplexing by the lighting design of Richie Vavrina. Also, Erik Siegling has provided a formidable sound design that will have you on the edge of your seat for the compelling final moments.

There is abundantly wonderful acting all around, but Lino and Brody are particularly strong… It is in Karl’s final scene, where he has miraculously reconnected with an old sweetheart from his youth and exhibited a genuine sense of forgiveness and possible redemption that you fleetingly wonder if he can alter the course of events and prevent the catastrophic conclusion that we all know is coming.
— Jeffrey Leibham (Around the Town)
 

The Artists

CAST

Walter Brody - Karl
Evan Linder - Sam
Joe Lino - Steve
Laura Berner Taylor - Sara
Brynne Barnard - U/S Sara
Terry Gallagher - U/S Karl
Aaron Spencer - U/S Steve & Sam

PRODUCTION TEAM

Georgette Verdin, director
Brynne Barnard, assistant director
Melanie Kulas, stage manager

Jeremiah Barr, make-up design
Lindsey Bartlett, dialect coach
Melanie Hatch, prop design
Noël Huntzinger, costume design
Pauline Oleksy, set design
Erik Siegling, sound design
Brian Sprague, technical director
Richard Vavrina, lighting design
Claire Yearman, violence direction

Sarah Gise, casting coordinator
Christopher Aaron Knarr, design associate
Matthew Nerber, marketing associate
Nancy Payne, marketing manager
David Rosenberg, press relations
Zoë Verdin, creative design

Evan Hanover, photographer
Salar Ardebili, photographer  

CAST BIOS

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WALTER BRODY, Karl

Walter’s first role in professional theatre was in Mr. Roberts at Putman County Playhouse, 1957, age 13. Roles in Chicago include Mr. Donovan, Luck of the Irish, (Next (R.I.P.)); Gramp, The Petrified Forest, (Strawdog); Andy Lovers (City Lit); and Nonno, Night of the iguana (The Artistic Home). 

 

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EVAN LINDER, Sam

Evan is the founding co-artistic director of The New Colony. Recent roles include Doug in The Antelope Party (Theatre Wit), Stuart in the original production and extended remount of At the Table (Broken Nose Theatre, Jeff Awards for Best Ensemble and Best Play) and Jim in the original run and remount of his play Byhalia, Mississippi at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre (The New Colony & Definition Theatre Company, Jeff Award for Best New Work).

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JOE LINO, Steve

Joe is making his Interrobang debut. He has worked with Chicago companies such as Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Drury Lane, Victory Gardens Theatre, Teatro Vista, The New Colony, Agency Theatre Collective and The Cuckoo’s Theater Project. Regionally he has worked with Actors Theatre of Louisville debuting shows in the Humana Festival and has worked Off Broadway with BAM. He is a proud alumni of Ball State University and is represented by Gray Talent.  

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LAURA BERNER TAYLOR,  Sara

Laura is a proud ensemble member of Interrobang, where she was in Recent Tragic Events and Still. Recent credits include Boy (u/s TimeLine), Detroit (TheatreSquared – Fayetteville, AR), This (u/s Windy City Playhouse), Vices and Virtues (Profiles), Urban Love Story (Black Ensemble Theatre), and A Life of Galileo (ETOPiA at Northwestern). Television credits include Chicago Med and Chicago Justice (NBC). She has a BFA in Acting from Santa Fe University of Art and Design and is represented by Big Mouth Talent.

 

PRODUCTION TEAM

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GEORGETTE VERDIN, Director (Co-Artistic Director)

Georgette Verdin has been working with ITP since 2014 and has served as Co-Artistic Director since 2015. She is also a freelance director, theater and speech educator, and arts integration specialist. She was the founding theater teacher at Polaris Charter Academy, an Expeditionary Learning School in West Humboldt Park, where she taught full-time for 8 years. For Interrobang, Georgette directed Season Six’s KATRINA: MOTHER-IN-LAW OF ‘EM ALL and Jeff Recommended RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS, as well as last season’s production of the 2013 Yale Drama Series Winner STILL by Jen Silverman. Other recent credits include Jeff Recommended TIME STANDS STILL (AstonRep), a staged reading of LAUNCH DAY by Michael J. Higgins (Chicago Dramatists) and Tennessee Williams’ TALK TO ME LIKE THE RAIN AND LET ME LISTEN as part of AstonRep’s FOUR BY TENN festival. She is currently assistant directing 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS at Lookingglass Theatre Company. Georgette holds a Bachelor of Arts in theatre performance from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA and a Master in Directing from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

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JAMES YOST, Co-Artistic Director

James Yost is a Joseph Jefferson Award nominated director and the co-artistic director of Interrobang Theatre Project. He previously served as the producing artistic director for BareBones Theatre Group, a company he co-founded in 1998. Selected credits include: Mr. Marmalade, Psycho Beach Party, Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, Skylight, The Graduate, The Play About the Baby, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Drift, Bash: Latter-Day Plays, Squirrels, The Wizard of Oz, Lend Me A Tenor, Orson's Shadow, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Pitchfork Disney and Noises Off. Regional: Shattered Globe: True West; The Gift Theater: Ten. ITP credits include Orange Flower Water (Jeff nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Joseph Wiens), Ibsen is Dead, The North Pool (Jeff nominated for best production and best director), the critically acclaimed REALLY REALLY (named one of the best shows of 2015 by the Chicago Tribune), Falling (Justin Tsatsa and Amy Johnson won Jeff awards for their roles) and the Chicago premiere of Lee Blessings play For the Loyal. Yost teaches Theatre and film.

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CRAIG WRIGHT,  Writer

Craig Wright is an American playwright, television producer and writer. He was a staff writer for the television series Six Feet Under and Lost, and creator of Dirty Sexy Money and Greenleaf. He also was the screenwriter for the 2014 movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

Wright is known primarily for his plays: GraceMistakes Were MadeThe PavilionRecent Tragic EventsMain Street. At 21, he received a Jerome Fellowship, and in 2009 he was awarded the Horton Foote Excellence in American Playwriting Award from Baylor University.  He is a member of the Chicago-based A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble.


JEREMIAH BARR, Make-up Design
Jeremiah is thrilled to be part of the Grace team and Interrobang Theater.  Getting to do theater is always a pleasure, and to do it with such fine talented people is a joy.

LINDSEY BARTLETT, Dialect Coach
Lindsay is thrilled to be coaching with Interrobang Theatre again having most recently been a coach for Foxfinder and previously Terminus, Pitchfork Disney, and Owners. She has been coaching throughout Chicagoland for over 10 years, some of her productions have included Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (Pride Films & Plays), The Bottle Tree (Stage Left), Dancing at Lughnasa (Wheaton College), A Perfect Ganesh (Eclipse Theatre), Fog Island (Filament Theatre), and Miss Marx: or the involuntary side of living (Strawdog Theatre), History Boys (TimeLine Theatre), among many others.  Lindsay is very proud to be the Artistic Director of 20% Theatre which strives to set the stage for women in theatre.

MELANIE HATCH, Prop Design
Melanie Hatch is a properties designer from Chicago. She is excited to be joining Interrobang for the first time. New to the world of prop design, she has been designing and fabricating props for the likes of Windy City Performs as well as independent films. Most recently freelancing for Full Spectrum Features.

MELANIE KULAS, Stage Manager
Melanie is excited to be working with Interrobang Theatre Project! In Chicago, Melanie has worked as a stage manager with AstonRep, Circle Theatre, Pride Films & Plays, and Strawdog, to name a few. She also serves as an Artistic Associate with The Comrades, and has stage managed with them for multiple productions. Each spring, Melanie travels to her alma mater to stage manage the UW Varsity Band Spring Concert in Madison, WI. Melanie would like to thank her friends and family, especially her partner, Joe, for all of their support. 

NOËL HUNTZINGER, Costume Design
Noël has been designing plays for Interrobang since 2013. She is an artistic associate at Sideshow Theatre Company and a Resident Artist with Filament Theatre. Favorite design credits include: New Stages Festival ‘16 and ’17, Pamplona, and The Wolves  (Goodman Theatre);  The Scorpion’s Sting (Lyric Opera Unlimited); Storm in the Barn (Bosie Contemporary Theatre). Learn more at noelhuntzinger.com

PAULINE OLEKSY, Scenic Design
Pauline is a scenic and properties designer from Illinois. She has recently earned her Masters of Fine Arts in stage design from Northern Illinois University and works designing and detailing exhibits and trades shows. Pauline currently resides in Chicago where she is pursuing opportunities in scenic design for theater and corporate stages, properties design and scenic painting. 

ERIK SIEGLING, Sound Design
Erik is excited to be joining Interrobang for the first time. Previously in Seattle, he designed for Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar and in Chicago, he recently made a lot of artsy noise at Oakton Community College’s premier of Powerless Gods.  An accomplished actor as well, Erik has guest starred on the TV show Z Nation, has performed in theatres across the country, and has a B.A. degree in Theatre from Principia College. He would like to thank the lively and skilled team at Interrobang for making him feel so welcome in this awesome, new city and can't wait for all your minds to get blown.

BRIAN SPRAGUE, Technical Director
Brian is a Chicago based Freelance Theatre Artist. Having received his Masters of Fine Arts in Acting from Northern Illinois University and his Bachelors of the Arts in Theatre from University of Kentucky, he has performed and studied internationally at the Adana State Theatre in Adana, Turkey and the Moscow Art Theatre School. Previous roles include: Uncle Peck in How I Learned to Drive, Owen in Deidre of the Sorrows, Scrooge in Christmas Carol, Anton and Otto Frank in Thinking Myself Out: The Story of Anne Frank, Casca in Julius Caesar, Antiochus/Cleon in Pericles: Prince of Tyre, Antonio in The Tempest, The Duke in Measure for Measure, Henry in The Real Thing, Nils Krogstad in A Doll's House, Pytor Sorin in The Seagull
Technical Directing credits include: Birdland (Steep Theatre), Invisible Hand (Steep Theatre), A Dickens Carol (Oak Park Festival Theatre), Akeelah and the Bee (Adventure Stage), JB (City Lit Theatre), Twelfth Night (Notre Dame Shakespeare), The Happiest Place on Earth (Sideshow Theatre), Give It All Back (Sideshow Theatre), Earthquakes in London (Steep Theatre), The Source (Route 66), Macbeth (Oak Park Festival Theatre), Fair Maid of the West (Oak Park Festival Theatre), Truth and Reconciliation (Sideshow Theatre), University of Kentucky's Summer Children's Theatre, and multiple shows for Actors Guild of Lexington.

RICHIE VAVRINA, Lighting Design
Richie travels the country doing theatrical and corporate shows. He loves coming home to work on engaging theatre. His most recent credits in the Chicago area include Firebrand Theatre's Lizzie, and Circle Theatre's Condition of Femme, and Elgin Community College's She Kills Monsters. He'll probably go get a beer with you if you ask. 

CLAIRE YEARMAN, Fight Choreographer
Claire is an actor, fight choreographer, Interrobang ensemble member and a certified teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors. She has an MFA in Acting from Western Illinois University. Some of the theaters she's had the pleasure to work with are: Interrobang Theatre Project, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, Williams Street Rep, Red Tape Theatre, Piccolo Theatre, AstonRep, 20% Theatre, and Metropolis Performing Arts. Her fight choreography received a Jeff nomination for Red Tape Theatre’s The Love of the Nightingale