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Robert Falls and Brian Dennehy Together Again!



Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls and renowned actor Brian Dennehy bring their artistic partnership to new heights with Eugene O’Neill’s haunting drama, Desire Under the Elms—marking their fifth collaboration on O’Neill’s work over two decades. Falls’ cast includes stage and screen stars Carla Gugino (Entourage, Spy Kids, Sin City) Pablo Schreiber (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Awake and Sing!), Boris McGiver (The Wire) and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Broadway’s Cyrano de Bergerac). The centerpiece production of Goodman Theatre’s two-month “A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century,” Desire Under the Elms appears January 17 – February 22 in the Goodman’s 856-seat Albert Ivar Theatre. Tickets are $25 - 82.  

Desire Under the Elms is iconic. A highly passionate, shocking drama of three people tangled in lust and loathing, it’s the first great tragedy from the writer who I consider to be the American Shakespeare—our country’s greatest and most influential playwright,” said Director Robert Falls. “It was necessary for me to reinterpret this play with my longtime collaborator Brian Dennehy—who is considered by many to be one of the great O’Neill interpreters in the world—with two actors of remarkable depth and substance, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber, to complete the devastating love triangle.”

Desire Under the Elms will be performed in one act, spanning 100 minutes with no intermission. Falls reassembles the design team from his 2006 critical and popular hit King Lear, including Walt Spangler (Set Design), Ana Kuzmanic (Costume Design), Michael Philippi (Lighting Design) and Richard Woodbury (Original Music and Sound Design).

About the “Irish Triumvirate” – Robert Falls, Brian Dennehy and Eugene O’Neill

Over the past 20 years at the Goodman, Brian Dennehy has delivered towering performances in four O’Neill works, each directed by Robert Falls. The first collaboration was The Iceman Cometh (1990), the epic portrait of hope and disillusionment with Dennehy starring as hardware salesman and pipedream-buster Theodore “Hickey” Hickman—with a cast that included Hope Davis, Denis O’Hare, Ernest Perry, Jr. and James Cromwell. The production was named by Time and USA Today one of the 10 best American theater productions of the 1991/1992 season and was subsequently hailed as the highpoint of the 33rd annual Dublin Theatre Festival. In 1996, Falls and Dennehy returned to O’Neill—this time with the 1936 tale of tragic self-delusion, A Touch of the Poet, featuring Dennehy as the tyrannical Con Melody, Pamela Payton-Wright as his long-suffering wife, and Jenny Bacon as his rebellious daughter. Six years later in 2002, O’Neill’s masterpiece, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, arrived on the Goodman stage with Dennehy as the vain, selfish patriarch James Tyrone. The Broadway remount of the production two years later—featuring Dennehy, Vanessa Redgrave, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Sean Leonard—won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, with Dennehy and Redgrave each earning the prizes for Best Actor and Actress.  Most recently, in 2004, Falls staged Hughie, the posthumously published one-act, with Dennehy as the big-time talker and small-time gambler Erie Smith—a production for which director and actor reunited at Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival, June 18 – August 31, with a subsequent production at Long Wharf Theatre. Desire Under the Elms marks their fifth collaboration on the works of O’Neill.

A master tragedian and intrepid explorer of the human psyche, Eugene O’Neill is considered one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century. His accolades include four Pulitzer Prizes in Dramamore than any other playwright to date—and the Nobel Prize in Literature. Since O’Neill’s death in 1953, his plays have remained popular on American and international stages and have become mainstays in literature courses throughout the world.

O’Neill was born in New York in 1888, in a hotel room overlooking Times Square. His father, James, was a well-known actor who spent much of his son’s childhood touring while O’Neill attended a series of private schools. O’Neill matriculated at Princeton in 1907, but dropped out to work a series of nondescript jobs. In 1909, he married Kathleen Jenkins, whom he abandoned shortly after the wedding when she was pregnant with their son Eugene O’Neill Jr. fled to Honduras to search for gold and joined the crew of a steamer ship. Upon his return to the United States, O’Neill found work as a reporter in New London, Connecticut. He was far from happy, and attempted suicide in 1912. While convalescing from a subsequent bout of tuberculosis, he wrote his first one-act plays. By 1914, O’Neill had recovered sufficiently to study playwriting at Harvard and to write several one-act plays and two full-length works, Bread and Butter and Servitude. Two years later, O’Neill received his first production: the Provincetown Players performed Bound East for Cardiff in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

O’Neill’s work was widely produced both in Provincetown and New York during the next several years, and the playwright was awarded his first Pulitzer, for Beyond the Horizon, just four years after his first Provincetown production. O’Neill’s reputation rose steadily throughout the 1920s when he received a second Pulitzer in 1922 for Anna Christie and a third in 1928 for Strange Interlude; The Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape and Desire Under the Elms brought O’Neill further popular and critical acclaim. O’Neill’s professional triumphs did nothing to alleviate his private depression, which intensified with the deaths of his father, mother and brother, all between 1920 and 1923. In his grief, O’Neill began to drink so heavily that he missed his brother’s funeral. The playwright’s domestic life also suffered. O’Neill was unable to connect with his children, Shane and Oona, from his second marriage to Agnes Boulton, which ended in divorce. O’Neill’s relationship with his children never improved. His oldest son, Eugene Jr., committed suicide and Shane was arrested for heroin possession. Against her father’s wishes, Oona married film star Charlie Chaplin who, at 54, was only two months younger than O’Neill. O’Neill never spoke to Oona again.

In 1929 O’Neill wed his third wife, actress Carlotta Monterey. This relationship proved tumultuous but durable, and the couple stayed together until O’Neill’s death. Despite the longevity of his third marriage and winning the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature, O’Neill’s personal and professional struggles continued. He labored throughout the 1930s on an 11-play cycle called A Tale of Possessors Self-Dispossessed, which he never completed. His health waned; a critical case of appendicitis was followed by the onset of severe tremors. O’Neill and Carlotta moved to Danville, California, in 1937, hoping the tranquil setting would revive O’Neill’s health and writing. His health never improved, but in the early 1940s, O’Neill wrote three of his best works: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh and A Moon for the Misbegotten. O’Neill considered Long Day’s Journey Into Night so personal that he left instructions for the play to be withheld for 25 years after his death.

In the early 1950s, O’Neill and Carlotta moved to Boston, taking up residence at the Shelton Hotel. It was there that O’Neill died in 1953. Carlotta later recalled his last words as “God damn it, I knew it! Born in a hotel room and dying in a hotel room!” As the executor of O’Neill’s estate, Carlotta gave permission for publication and production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The play premiered in 1956 and won O’Neill his fourth Pulitzer in 1957, four years after his death.


About the Cast of Desire Under the Elms

Brian Dennehy (Ephraim Cabot) returns to the Goodman, where his credits include Hughie (2004, also at Trinity Repertory Company and Long Wharf Theatre), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2002), Death of a Salesman (1998), A Touch of the Poet (1996), The Iceman Cometh (1992, also at Abbey Theatre, Dublin) and Galileo (1986). His Broadway credits include Inherit the Wind (2007), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Tony Award for Best Actor 2003), Death of a Salesman (Tony Award for Best Actor 1999) and Translations (1995). His off-Broadway credits include Richard Nelson’s Conversations in Tusculum at The Public Theatre (2008), Trumbo at Westside Theatre (2004), The Cherry Orchard at Brooklyn Academy of Music (1988) and Says I, Says He at the Phoenix Theater Company (1979). Dennehy’s regional theater credits include All’s Well That Ends Well, Hughie and Krapp’s Last Tape at Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario (2008); The Exonerated (which toured New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C.; Says I, Says He at Mark Taper Forum; and Rat in the Skull at Wisdom Bridge Theatre. His credits in London’s West End include Death of a Salesman, for which he received the Olivier Best Actor Statue in 2005. Feature films include Righteous Kill, War Eagle, Welcome to Paradise, Ratatouille, Tommy Boy, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo & Juliet, Presumed Innocent, Gladiator, Best Seller, The Last of the Finest, The Belly of an Architect (Best Actor Chicago Film Festival), F/X and Cocoon, among many others. Television films include Our Fathers (Showtime, Emmy Award nomination Best Supporting Actor), The Exonerated (Court TV), Behind the Camera: Three’s Company (NBC), The Crooked E (ABC), A Season on the Brink (ESPN), Three Blind Mice (CBS), Death of a Salesman (Showtime, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy Award nomination for Best Actor) and Thanks to a Grateful Nation (Showtime).

Carla Gugino (Abbie Putnam) made her Broadway debut in Roundabout Theatre Company's 2004 revival of Arthur Miller's After the Fall, for which she received an Outer Critic's Circle Award nomination and a Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut for her role as

Maggie. She followed that with her acclaimed portrayal of Catherine Holly in the Tennessee William's classic Suddenly Last Summer, also for Roundabout. Most recent film credits include American Gangster opposite Russell Crowe; Righteous Kill opposite Robert De Niro and Al Pacino; The Lookout; the Spy Kids Trilogy and Sin City, both directed by Robert Rodriguez; and Night at the Museum opposite Ben Stiller. She recently completed filming Watchmen and Race to Witch Mountain, both due out this spring. Other film credits include This Boy's Life, Miami Rhapsody, Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes opposite Nicolas Cage, Wayne Wang's Center of the World and The Singing Detective opposite Robert Downey, Jr. Television credits include the title character in the ABC series Karen Sisco, based on the Elmore Leonard novel Out of Sight, Threshold for CBS, Chicago Hope and Spin City. She can now be seen reprising her role on HBO's hit series Entourage.

Pablo Schreiber (Eben Cabot) received a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut in Awake and Sing! Other theater credits include Reasons To Be Pretty at MCC Theatre; Dying City at Lincoln Center Theater; Mr. Marmalade at Roundabout Theatre Company; Manuscript at Daryl Roth Theatre; Sin: A Cardinal Deposed at The New Group; Blood Orange at Blue Heron Arts Center; and Julius Caesar at the New York Shakespeare Film Festival. Schreiber will be seen in the upcoming film Tell Tale directed by Michael Cuesta. Other film credits include Vicky Cristina Barcelona directed by Woody Allen, Nights in Rodanthe directed by George C. Wolfe, The Lords of Dogtown, The Manchurian Candidate, Breaking Upwards, Favorite Son, Into the Fire, The Mudge Boy and Invitation to a Suicide. Television credits include The Beast, Life on Mars, Army Wives, Fear Itself, Dirt, The Wire, John Grisham's A Painted House, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Black Donnellys.

Boris McGiver (Peter Cabot) McGiver’s off-Broadway credits include The Overwhelming with Max Stafford-Clark at Roundabout Theatre Company; nine Shakespeare productions with Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Wing-Davey, Steven Berkoff, Brian Kulick and many others at The Public Theatre; Cymbeline with Bartlett Sher and Andorra with Liviu Ciulei at Theatre for a New Audience; Book of Days at Signature Theatre; More Lies About Jerzy at Vineyard Theatre; The Devils directed by Garland Wright and Lydie Breeze at New York Theatre Workshop; and Hapgood directed by Jack O’Brien at Lincoln Center Theater. McGiver’s film credits include The Clique, Dark Matter with Meryl Streep, Fur with Nicole Kidman, Pink Panther with Steve Martin, Taxi with Jimmy Fallon, Connie and Carla, Cradle Will Rock, Jesus’ Son with Billy Crudup, Little Odessa and Ironweed with Meryl Streep. Television credits include John Adams (HBO), The Wire (HBO), Canterbury’s Law (FOX) and 30Rock (NBC), among others.

Daniel Stewart Sherman (Simeon Cabot) appeared on Broadway in Cyrano de Bergerac, A Touch of the Poet, Henry IV and The Full Monty. Off-Broadway credits include Guys and Dolls, The Mineola Twins and Corpus Christi; regional credits include Terra Nova, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and Hamlet. Film credits include The Taking of Pelham 1:23, Gigantic, Pretty Bird, The Box, Capers, Redacted, Music and Lyrics, I Think I Love My Wife, Ordinary Sinner, Across the Universe, Wendigo and Monday Night Mahyem. Sherman’s television credits include Law & Order, Gossip Girl, The Sopranos and Without a Trace.

Robert Falls (Goodman Theatre Artistic Director) has been the artistic director of Goodman Theatre since 1986. From 1977 to 1985, he was the artistic director of Wisdom Bridge Theatre. Two of his most highly acclaimed Broadway productions, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (both starring his longtime collaborator Brian Dennehy), were honored with seven Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards. He has also collaborated with Dennehy on O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, A Touch of the Poet and Brecht’s Galileo at the Goodman. Most recently, Falls directed Dennehy in Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie for Stratford Shakespeare Festival and Long Wharf Theatre. Last season, Mr. Falls re-mounted his Tony-nominated Broadway production of Conor McPherson’s Shining City for the Goodman and Boston’s Huntington Theatre. Prior to that, he directed the Tony-nominated Broadway revival of Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio, starring Liev Schreiber. He also directed Stacy Keach in an explosive new production of King Lear for the Goodman that will be re-mounted for The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., next summer. His production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida for Walt Disney Theatricals ran on Broadway, as well as toured nationally and abroad. Other recent Goodman productions include the world premiere of Arthur Miller’s final play, Finishing the Picture and the world premieres of Rebecca Gilman’s Blue Surge and Dollhouse; other Goodman credits include the world premieres of Griller, Book of the Night, The Speed of Darkness, On the Open Road and Riverview: A Melodrama with Music; the American premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s House and Garden; Three Sisters; The Night of the Iguana; The Misanthrope; Pal Joey; and The Tempest. On Broadway, Falls directed Horton Foote’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Young Man from Atlanta and Steve Tesich’s The Speed of Darkness. Other credits include the world premiere of Eric Bogosian’s subUrbia at Lincoln Center Theater (Obie Award), The Rose Tattoo for Circle in the Square, The Iceman Cometh at Abbey Theatre in Dublin and The Night of the Iguana at Roundabout Theatre, as well as productions for Guthrie Theater, Remains Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Metropolitan Opera and the Grande Théâtre de Genève.


About “A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century”

Goodman Theatre begins 2009 with an eight-play landmark theatrical event, “A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century” curated by Artistic Director Robert Falls, January 7 through March 8, 2009. More than 100 artists from six theater companies around the world bring their highly contemporary, innovative interpretations of O’Neill’s dramas to the Goodman’s Exploration—viewing the 20th century “father of the American drama,” through a 21st century international lens. 

Participating companies include: The Wooster Group’s The Emperor Jones (New York); Companhia Triptal’s Homens Ao Mar (Sea Plays) (Brazil); The Hypocrites’ The Hairy Ape (Chicago); Toneelgroep’s Rouw Siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra) (Amsterdam); and The Neo-Futurists’ Strange Interlude (Chicago). The centerpiece of the Exploration is Goodman Theatre’s Desire Under the Elms.

The global component of the Eugene O’Neill Festival expands the international programming that Goodman Theatre has established over the years with productions of The Merchant of Venice in London, Paris and Hamburg; Death of a Salesman in London; Galileo Galilei in London and The Iceman Cometh in Dublin. The biennial Latino Theatre Festival has provided an opportunity for audiences to experience outstanding work from Spain, Mexico and Brazil over the past six years. “In a world in which globalization is a reality, it is essential that outstanding work from the US travels abroad and, at the same time, that Americans experience the cultural life of the rest of the world,” said Falls.

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