Review: ‘Everyman’

"Everyman" is director Frank Galati's second major assignment with the Steppenwolf troupe in just six months. Last summer his stage adaptation of William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" failed to generate much excitement, and his mostly lifeless take on this seldom-seen medieval text isn't likely to fare much better.

“Everyman” is director Frank Galati’s second major assignment with the Steppenwolf troupe in just six months. Last summer his stage adaptation of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” failed to generate much excitement, and his mostly lifeless take on this seldom-seen medieval text isn’t likely to fare much better.

Galati has attempted to open up this short morality tale about one man’s difficult journey from life to death by using modern-day costuming and a few odd scenic elements such as strips of neon. Also on hand are a chorus of 30 male singers who perform Gregorian chants, as well as snippets of a couple of more contemporary ditties. For no apparent reason, Galati adds another twist by having the actor who will play Everyman chosen at random from four candidates at each performance.

Whether or not audiences at this holiday season are craving a rendezvous with “Everyman,” they won’t find Galati’s production especially engrossing, because no one onstage seems very engaged in the telling of this story about Everyman’s search for a companion with whom to face death.

If this tale is to move us with its universal truths, the actors must speak their lines with emotional conviction. But with the exception of Ajay Naidu, who played Everyman at the performance reviewed, everyone appeared to be merely going through the motions.

Naidu brings an appealing sincerity and innocence to his performance, but all around him there’s nothing but dead wood. The Windy City Gay Chorus sounds fine in its Gregorian chant mode, but seems underutilized.

Visually, Galati’s production is rather severe. With the exception of some pools of bright light supplied by lighting ace Kevin Rigdon and a few displays of votive candles, much of the time the large Steppenwolf stage is a dark, forbidding void, sucking up what little energy the cast has managed to muster for the evening. John Paoletti’s hodgepodge of jeans, tuxedos and other modern togs does little to illuminate the characters who wear them.

Everyman

Production

CHICAGO A Steppenwolf Theatre presentation of a play in one act. Directed by Frank Galati. Sets and costumes, John Paoletti.

Crew

Lighting, Kevin Rigdon; choreography, Kenny Ingram; musical direction, Ed Zelnis; sound, Rob Milburn; production stage manager, Malcom Ewen. Artistic director, Martha Lavey; managing director, Michael Gennaro. Opened Dec. 3, 1995, at Steppenwolf. Reviewed Dec. 10 ; 500 seats; $ 35 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MIN.

With

Cast: Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Messenger, Death, Knowledge), Lou Ferguson (God the Father), David Alan Novak (God the Son, Cousin), Jay Kiecolt-Wahl (God the Holy Ghost, Five Wits), Michael Sokol (Death's Dart), Anthony Diaz-Perez (Fellowship or Everyman), Marilyn Dodds Frank (Kindred), Alan Wilder (Goods, Discretion), Cecelia Suarez, (Good Deeds), Jane C. Cho (Good Deeds), Ajay Naidu (Confession or Everyman), Tania Richard (Confession), Mariann Mayberry (Beauty or Everyman), Kyle Hall (Beauty), Johnny Lee Davenport (Strength or Everyman), Michael Kachingwe (Strength) and the Windy City Gay Chorus.
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