Family Is A Universal Theme in “The Herd”

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No one has a perfect family. There is no such thing. Every family, has their secrets and skeletons. Steppenwolf’s latest production “The Herd.” proves that. British playwright, Rory Kinnear explores the dynamics and emotions of a middle class British family. This is the US Premiere of the dark comedy and it seems to translate well to American audiences. Ensemble member , Frank Galati utilizes his stage and actors well as the director of the production. Bravo to Galati for using such favorites as Francis Guinan and John Mahoney in the roles of Ian and Brian. Mahoney is always such a delight to watch on stage . He always comes across as charming and in this play it is no exception. “Brian” is the voice of reason in the play and he is the lone person to bring “Ian” back to his senses. Francis Guinan takes the role of the father who left and makes the audience pity him as well as shame him. Ian feels pushed away from his family and that was the reason he left. As per usual , Carol ,( played brilliantly by Molly Regan) puts herself last and tries to make everything perfect for her son, who has been sick most of his life and is her reason for living. She has been slowly dying herself and everyone recognizes that , except her. Her mother, Patricia, (played by Lois Smith) worries about her the most. Smith adds a comical take to the serious tone of the piece. Her disdain for her former son in law rivals classic mother in law’s like Endora/Darrin and Sophia/Stanley.. In  “Ian” ‘s case the hatred seems to be justified. Alas, he just couldn’t take anymore and leaves to start another family. There is just one problem, there was another child besides Andy and that was his sister ,played by Audrey Francis. Claire is an angry woman with a secret of her own. She has tried to love again , despite feeling that everyone has seemed to abandon her. She has tried to pull her own mess of a life together with her poet boyfriend, Mark. (played by Cliff Chamberlain) . Mark is a reluctant participant to this mess of a family. It was only supposed to be a simple 21st birthday , but it turned into a Shakesperean drama. Mark seems to go with the flow and actually encourages the family to possibly forgive “Ian” and tear down some walls as well. The playwright embraces language in this play and this is obvious with Mark’s  poetry and numerous mentions of the “Bard” . A special treat was John Mahoney quoting Shakespeare  “The Herd” is  a roller coaster ride of emotions that will touch your heart. Special notice should also go to Walt Spangler for his gorgeous scene design and use of art work. It enhanced the production.

“The Herd” runs through June 7 at Steppenwolf  Downstairs Theatre. Tickets are 20-86 dollars and are on sale through audiences services at 312-335-1650 and at steppenwolf.org.

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