Chicago Theater Review: THE MIDNIGHT CITY (Firecat Projects at Steppenwolf Theatre)

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by Erika Mikkalo on September 13, 2014

in Theater-Chicago

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A CITY

As artist, poet, and actor Tony Fitzpatrick prepares to leave Chicago for New Orleans, he presents his theater piece, The Midnight City: a personal conversation that documents the Windy City, certainly, but also history, heroes, and art. Friend and co-writer Stan Klein—who previously appeared with Fitzpatrick in This Train, Stations Lost and Nickel History: The Nation of Heat—brings a quiet presence that contrasts with Fitzpatrick’s bulk and bombast. Joy and wistfulness elegantly co-mingle at the Steppenwolf Garage under adapter and director Ann Filmer.

Tony Fitzpatrick with Stan Klein in THE MIDNIGHT CITY at Steppenwolf Theatre - photo by Anthony Aicardi.

Singer Anna Fermin (who co-wrote the music with John Rice) opens the show, accompanying a flock of Fitzpatrick’s bird paintings projected mid-stage (video art by Kristin Reeves).  Fitzpatrick then embarks on the description of his first bird-watching adventures: He wants to “be warm and draw birds” in his future home. However, as further anecdotes of his experiences with birds, people, and the city unfold, it appears that he may be moving away from a place changing unto unrecognizability. As schools shutter, generic franchises replace local businesses, and reality-show icons brand buildings in a town famous for its architecture, nostalgia mixes with indignation and mourning.

Tony Fitzpatrick with the band in THE MIDNIGHT CITY at Steppenwolf Theatre - photo by Anthony Aicardi.

Both Fitzpatrick and Klein visit the ultimate midnight as they reflect on the loss of Lou Reed and painter Kenneth Noland; their own close calls; and the casualties in our city. Klein, who posits that the ultimate epitaph was Sonny Liston’s “A Man,” offers quiet presentations of multiple men—his personae artist “Vito de Salvo” and the friendly Cubs’ usher “Leo”—that provide the emotional anchor of the evening.

Tony Fitzpatrick in THE MIDNIGHT CITY at Steppenwolf Theatre. Photo by Anthony Aicardi.

When he admonishes Fitzgerald with “Do you think New Orleans is going to be any different?” it is a sad acknowledgement of the crime, and in some cases vulture-like developers, that plague our cities. Chicago may not be known for “noble accents” (to allude to the Wallace Stevens poem that is incorporated in the splendid musical accompaniment) but The Midnight City’s reflections on the “lucid, inescapable rhythms” of the city and life will make you celebrate and grieve.

Stan Klein with Anna Fermin in THE MIDNIGHT CITY at Steppenwolf Theatre - photo by Anthony Aicardi.

photos by Anthony Aicardi

Tony Fitzpatrick in THE MIDNIGHT CITY at Steppenwolf Theatre - photo by Anthony Aicardi.

The Midnight City
Firecat Projects, in conjunction with Steppenwolf Theatre
Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted
Thurs and Fri at 8; Sat at 5 & 8; Sun at 6
scheduled to end on October 19, 2014
EXTENDED to October 26, 2014
for tickets, call 312-335-1650 or visit www.steppenwolf.org

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

{ 1 comment }

Art Shay September 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm

It is time we face a theatrical truth: Tony Fitzpatrick is expanding the Studs Terkel legend of being Chicago’s resident polymath: Tony writes for print and the stage, “Chicago” style; he acts expansively (Zero Mostel comes to mind); his orientations are as a fine artist whose bird canvases sell widely; his intellectual liberal stance (compared to the plethora of semi-literate conservatives on TV and in politics) is refreshingly eggheaded (an Adlai liberal for our time!); he trumps Trumps’s alphabetic incursion on our sacred soil; and he reveres Nelson Algren and Studs. And the first big time art dealer to fall for him and his fantastic birds? Ann Nathan!! The Conservative Art Establishment’s Doyenne of Doyennes! And it would not have surprised me on opening night to see Garry Wills cheering him on, as he did every time Studs left his lair.

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