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Theater Sun Sep 23 2012

Rare Terra Theatre's Wrong Mountain

In David Hirson's Wrong Mountain, "the American definition of success" is explored; here, director Ian Streicher talks about the play and his take on the Chicago theater scene.

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Wrong Mountain - Michael Dickson as Guy and Julie Partyka as Claire; photo by Anthony Robert La Penna.

The show recently opened--how have things been going so far?

It's going well. It's a big play--it's got 14 actors playing about 20 parts in 25 scenes in 10 locations--so it's a very big enterprise for a storefront theater. It's been a challenging project but it's been going pretty well.

Wrong Mountain is playing under Rare Terra Theatre, a company you co-founded; tell us a little bit about it and what you think sets it apart from other theater companies in Chicago.

The company was founded a long time ago; Guy Van Swearingen and I founded it in the late 80s. One thing that makes us unique is that it's a new company--people don't really know who we are, but we're trying to figure out how to leverage this and carve out a niche. We're interested in stories about older people; for example, Wrong Mountain is about a middle-aged college professor who is misanthropic and part of his life challenge is a challenge you don't have in your 20s and 30s.

What do you like most about Chicago's theater scene/community?

I think one of the big things is the audiences. I grew up here and worked in Chicago theater for a number of years. With the audiences in Chicago, there's a real audience for people that are interested in plays--really interested in theater that's going to stretch them that's gonna be complex and challenging and intellectually, physically and emotionally rigorous. The other thing is there's just a community of really solid people working in the theater scene who have been here a long time.

What attracted you to direct Wrong Mountain--had you ever worked with David Hirson before?

No. I had not. But he's part of the story. A big part of what was attractive to me is the play is intensely language-oriented and intellectually rigorous. And the language is delightful. It's very clever and it's very witty, but it's about serious stuff, too. When I contacted David Hirson in New York, the play had only been done once before on Broadway and it had not done well. Talking to him, I realized there was opportunity to take this play and figure out how to make it work in ways that it had not worked on Broadway.

The play tackles the "American definition of success", which, depending on whom you ask, can mean different things. From the director's side, did that subjectivity come to mind for you?

The subjectivity is inherent in the play; this is not a play where the author has an opinion and wants everybody to discover his opinion and then see the world in a particular way. There are a lot of wonderful plays that do that, but with David, I don't think that's the case. He has these questions and wrote the play to explore them, but he has no expectations that his play answers those questions.

What can audiences expect when they see the production? How do you think it will resonate?

It's fun--there's a lot in the play that is just goofy and silly but it is also asks big questions. It's also challenging--for audiences and for us--and that's how it'll resonate.

What was it like working with this cast?

Rick Sandoval is an actor I've known for almost 30 years. And Doug Vickers, a company member, is a hysterical guy who has tremendous chops. Everybody is really gifted--we've had a great time and we're fortunate to have this cast.

What are you most proud of about this production?

I think I'm most proud of the fact that it's really a huge and complex enterprise. There are all these actors and scene changes and original music composed for this production--and I think with all of that, we tell the story in a fun way. I'm proud that we're using all these different elements and managed to put it all together.

~*~

Wrong Mountain runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm through October 14, at Second Stage, 3408 N. Sheffield; tickets are $18-$28 and are available online or 773-305-5643.

 
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