Review Roundup: LITTLE BEAR RIDGE ROAD Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens at Steppenwolf

Performances will run through August 4.

By: Jun. 24, 2024
Review Roundup: LITTLE BEAR RIDGE ROAD Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens at Steppenwolf
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Steppenwolf Theatre Company is concluding its 48th season with the world premiere of Little Bear Ridge Road, an intimate drama by MacArthur Fellow Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale, A Bright New Boise), directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello (Wicked, Airline Highway). See photos from the production.

Tony and Emmy Award-winning ensemble member Laurie Metcalf (The Conners, Three Tall Women – Tony Award) comes home to Steppenwolf, joined by John Drea (Steppenwolf debut), Meighan Gerachis (POTUS, Domesticated) and Micah Stock (Steppenwolf debut, It's Only A Play – Tony Award nomination).

In the outer limits of rural Idaho, the last two estranged members of the Fernsby family tree, a reclusive aunt and her gay nephew, reunite to sort the mess left behind after a troubled father's passing. They now face an uncomfortable and universal question: how do we deal with other people? And is connection more trouble than it’s worth? As their relationship begins anew, the two reluctant Fernsbys ­– separated by age and experience – start to understand the joys and perils of letting someone else into your own story, even if only for a moment.

The creative team includes Scott Pask (Scenic Design), Jessica Pabst (Costume Design), Heather Gilbert (Lighting Design), Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Design), John Baker (Dramaturg), Gigi Buffington (Voice and Text Coach), Patrick Zakem (Creative Producer), Tom Pearl (Producing Director), JC Clementz, CSA (Casting), Laura D. Glenn (Production Stage Manager) and Jaclynn Joslin (Assistant Stage Manager).

See what the critics are saying...

Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: In LITTLE BEAR RIDGE ROAD, Samuel D. Hunter has accomplished a rare and magical feat: He’s given us a play that’s mundane and profound at the same time. With Joe Mantello directing, Steppenwolf’s ensemble of Laurie MetcalfMicah Stock, John Drea, and Meighan Gerachis make the play yet more fascinating and emotionally raw. 

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Few readers will be surprised to read that Metcalf ranges deep into a character with a throbbing heart, but a heart with so many walls around it that no one can hear its cries. So indeed she does. But I was struck here by how much Stock pushes her to go yet further. In my time I’ve watched Metcalf wipe the stage with other actors but not only does Stock hold his own here with one of the best stage artists of her generation, he brings out the best in her. Metcalf is an in-the-moment performer and if you watch her work closely (and you should), you will see how she picks up the rhythms of her co-star’s work here, often after her neck veins have started to bulge and surprise has registered on her face. Metcalf knows how to mine empathy while avoiding sentimentality and to live and breathe a woman who holds so much inside that her barking dialogue feels like air escaping out of a tied balloon.

Steven Oxman, Chicago Sun-Times: This is a deeply beautiful piece of writing, bleakly funny, poetic in its plainness, aching in its intense empathy for the characters, brought to brilliant life, and eventually explosive drama, by Metcalf and Stock under the precise, elegant direction of Joe Mantello.

Dan Jakes, Chicago Reader: Little Bear is also one of the more sophisticated acknowledgments and uses of the pandemic in drama I’ve seen to date. There’s a perverse coziness to clinical depression that can be hard to shed, and the rate at which people climbed out of the collective global hangover after yearslong isolation and death varied from person to person. Some, like Ethan, survived but never escaped. One of the biggest gut punches here comes not from one of the horrifying revelations or verbal jabs but an offhand timestamp revealing a full year has gone by without much movement forward in Ethan’s increasingly pathetic life, despite the clouds having lifted around him.  

Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago: ***** Any of you that has been a family member that is left with the task of settling a deceased family member’s life, knows how difficult this chore can be. Yes, what seems to be something that should  be nice and easy, never is. Now, try to imagine that this is the case and you and your estranged nephew are the last of the clan, and are assigned to do the cleanup. This is the case in the current Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of “Little Bear Ridge Road” now having its World Premiere on their “downstairs” stage.

Adam Kaz, Third Coast Review: Director Joe Mantello brings Samuel D. Hunter’s (The Whale, A Case for the Existence of God) new family comedy-drama Little Bear Ridge Road to Steppenwolf. Tony and Emmy-winning actor Laurie Metcalf leads the small cast with a compelling performance. The show’s true punch comes from Hunter’s script, which honestly and refreshingly explores issues of the day.

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