Windy City Playhouse, known for presenting unique and immersive theater pieces that create an intimate audience experience, is set to debut its newest immersive production with the Chicago premiere of Jonathan Caren’s “The Recommendation” at its Flagship location (3014 N. Irving Park Road). Fresh off successful productions at The Old Globe (in San Diego) and the Flea Theater in New York, the psychological thriller follows two friends through the trials and tribulations of life and tests just how far they will go to get what they want. The cast of “The Recommendation” includes Michael Aaron Pogue as Iskinder Iodouku, Julian Hester as Aaron Feldman and Brian Keys as Dwight Barnes.
“The Recommendation” begins previews July 2 and runs through Sept. 22 at the Playhouse’s flagship location. Tickets ($80-$100) are on sale now and can be purchased in-person at the Windy City Playhouse Box Office, by visiting WindyCityPlayhouse.com or by calling (773) 891-8985.
In keeping with Windy City Playhouse’s mission of providing an intimate viewing experience, Caren is adapting his script specifically for this production following a reconceptualized vision of Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein. The audience capacity for “The Recommendation” will be limited to 30 guests. The press nights for the production are as follows:
Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, July 12 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 13 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday July 14 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“The Recommendation” is the winner of the LA Ovation Award for Outstanding Production, the winner of the Craig Noel Award for Outstanding New Play and a finalist for the Laurents/Hatcher Playwright Prize. Stage Scene LA called the show, “Terrific… drama that will keep you guessing from its exhilarating start to its suspenseful finish… a rollercoaster ride of a play.” The North County Times raved, “Smart, sassy and surprising. Don’t miss Jonathan Caren’s whip-smart, shape-shifting ‘The Recommendation’. It’s one of the best new plays I’ve seen in years.” The Critics Choice said, “A rousing Recommendation. This is one show about connections, that really does connect.” TheatreMania hailed the play as “unfailingly intelligent and brutally funny.”
“We always aim to bring new and unique theater to the Playhouse and ‘The Recommendation’ felt like the perfect choice for us,” said Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein. “We’ve been working to adapt the show with playwright Jonathan Caren to present a version that is original for Windy City Playhouse. It keeps you guessing from start to finish. It’s interesting and smart and I am confident it will resonate with our audiences.”
The performance schedule for “The Recommendation” is as follows: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets ($80-$100) are now on sale through Sept. 22.
About the artists in “The Recommendation”:
Jonathan Wilson (Director) is a Professor of Theatre and Drama in Loyola University’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts where he was named Loyola’s Faculty Member of the Year in 2008. He teaches courses in Acting and Play Direction and during his tenure at the University, he has directed more than 45 productions for the Theatre Department. Among his recent productions are: “Violet” (2018), “Doubt” (2017) “Getting Out” (2016), “Lend Me A Tenor” (2015), “Proof” (2014), “From the Mississippi Delta” (2013), “Tartuffe” (2012) and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He has also been actively involved as a stage director in professional theatre in Chicago and around the country. Chicago credits include: “Among All This You Stand Like a Fine Brownstone,” “Savior” and “Liberty City” (ETA Theatre); “Master Harold and The Boys” (Timeline Theater, Jeff Award Nomination); “Jitney” (Jeff Award Nomination), “Two Trains Running” (Jeff Award, Best Director); and “Fraternity” (Jeff Award, Best Director, Pegasus Theatre); “Pantomime” and “The Lion and the Jewel” (Court Theatre); and “Desire Under the Elms” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night” (Jeff Award Nomination, Touchstone Theatre). Regional credits include: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Seven Guitars” (Seattle Repertory Theatre); “Fences” (touring at Hartford Stage, Dallas Theatre Center and Portland Center Stage); “Electra,” “Oedipus the Kind,” and “Dutchman” (Hartford Stage). Jonathan’s production of Dr. Endesha Holland’s “From the Mississippi Delta” opened at the Northlight Theatre in 1990 and won the Jeff Award for Best Ensemble and enjoyed subsequent productions at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. where it received the Helen Hayes Award for Best Out of Town Production and Hartford Stage where it received the Connecticut’s Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Director and Best Ensemble. In the fall of 1991, the production was moved Off-Broadway for a nine-month run, where it received outstanding reviews and was voted by Time Magazine as one of its top 10 productions of the ‘91-’92 theatrical season. Wilson holds degrees in Theatre and Play Direction from Daemen College in Buffalo, New York, the University of Cincinnati and Northwestern University. He is also a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
Michael Aaron Pogue (Iskinder Iodouku) is an Oak Park native making his return to Windy City Playhouse, where he was seen in “Becky Shaw” and “Stick Fly.” Other theater credits: “Father Comes Home From The Wars: Parts 1, 2 & 3” (Goodman Theatre, Jeff Award Nomination for Best Production and Best Ensemble); “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (Jeff Award Nomination for Best Production), “Electra,” “Agamemnon,” “Tartuffe,” “The Misanthrope,” “Angels in America” and “Spunk” (Court Theatre); “Carter’s Way” and “Venus” (Steppenwolf Theatre); “Dutchman” (American Blues Theatre); “The Project(s)” (American Theatre); “Night and Day” (Remy Bumppo Theatre); “Romeo and Juliet” (Teatro Vista); “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “Hamlet” (Oak Park Festival Theatre). Film credits include “The Drunk,” and “Left Alone.” Television credits include “Chicago Fire,” and “Crisis.” Pogue works as a teaching artist with various institutions and with a growing alliance with Court Theatre for nearly a decade, he presently serves as an Education Associate. He is represented by Gray Talent Group.
Julian Hester (Aaron Feldman) is making his Windy City Playhouse debut. Hester is an Equity Jeff-Nominated company member at Artistic Home where credits include “Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “The School for Lies,” “The Seagull,” “Macbeth” and “The Late Henry Moss.” Hester also worked at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” “Since I Suppose” (“Measure for Measure”) and “The Heir Apparent.” He has also been seen in Chicago Dramatists in Kimberly Senior’s “Homecoming 1972,” Theater Wit, Prop Theater, Red Tape Theater and most recently in “How I Learned to Drive” at Raven Theatre. He has been seen on screen with guest star roles on “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Med,” and the cult indie feature “King Rat.” He is represented by Paonessa Talent.
Brian Keys (Dwight Barnes) is an actor, singer and multi-instrument musician born and raised in the Englewood neighborhood on the South side of Chicago. Most recently, Keys was seen on stage in “Last Stop on Market Street” at Chicago Children's Theatre and reprised the role of Wilbur Wright in “Kitty Hawk” at The Arsht Center in Miami. Other theatre credits include “Edward Tulane” (First Stage Theatre); “Pirates of Penzance” and “The Mikado” (Olney Theatre Center); “All the Way” (Asolo Rep Theatre); “The City of Conversation” (Northlight Theatre); “Hobo King” (Congo Square Theatre); “American Idiot” (The Hypocrites Theatre); “Royal Society of Antarctica” (The Gift Theatre); “Ruined” (Eclipse Theatre); “Seven Guitars” (Court Theatre); “A Soldier’s Play” (Raven Theatre). Television credits include: “Empire” (FOX Television Studios), “Chicago Fire” (NBC Universal), “Chicago Justice” (NBC Universal), “A.P.B.” (FOX Television Studios) and “Project Afterlife” (Discovery Networks). Keys will be seen next in Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams' new drama horror series “Lovecraft Country” on HBO set to premiere in 2019.
Jonathan Caren (Playwright) grew up in Los Angeles. His play “The Recommendation” (IAMA, The Flea, The Old Globe) won the Craig Noel Award for Best New Play, an Ovation Award for Best Play and was nominated for an NAACP award. His plays include “Need to Know” (Colt Coeur Play Hotel, Rogue Machine), and “Catch The Fish” (Most Outstanding Play NY Fringe). “Canyon” will receive its World Premiere as a co-production with IAMA and Latino Theater Company in 2019, directed by Whitney White. His work has been featured at theatres including The Manhattan Theater Club, The Roundabout, Ensemble Studio Theater, The Rattlestick, The New Group, The Williamstown Theater Festival, Ars Nova, The Keen Company, Colt Coeur, Rogue Machine, The Lark, New York Stage and Film and at The Old Vic in London. He is a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group at Primary Stages, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Dramatist Guild Fellow, The New York Stage and Film Founder’s Award-Winner, a two-time recipient of a Fellowship to SPACE on Ryder Farm, a two-time Lecomte du Nouy Award-Winner and a recipient of the Theater Publicus Prize for Dramatic Fiction. Additionally, he was a finalist for the Laurents/Hatcher Award and a nominee for the Otis Guerney New American Playwright’s Award. A graduate of The Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwright’s Program at The Juilliard School and Vassar College where he studied mythology and religion, he now serves as an adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch School of The Arts. For television, Caren is a writer on USA’s “The Sinner.” Previous credits include ABC’s “A Million Little Things,” NBC’s “Rise,” and Netflix’s “Gypsy.”
Amy Rubenstein is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Windy City Playhouse. Since the theater’s premiere in March 2015, she has overseen 11 mainstage productions, including the recent smash hit, world premiere “Southern Gothic,” of which she was also a co-creator. During her tenure, the Playhouse has been lauded for its uniquely contemporary approach that focuses on audience experience and has received numerous industry accolades, including seven Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, 11 Chicago Theater Awards, including the 2018 Trailblazer Award, and three International Centre for Women Playwrights’ 50/50 Awards. Prior to her current role at the Playhouse, Rubenstein’s credits include performing with Long Beach Playhouse, Human Race Theatre and Center Stage Theater, among others. She is a proud graduate of Brandeis University.
Mikael Burke (Associate Director) is a Chicago-based director, deviser and educator. A Princess Grace Award winner in theatre and graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA Directing). Mikael’s most recently worked with Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight Theatre, American Theatre Company and Strawdog Theatre Company in Chicago and regionally with Asolo Repertory Theatre, GEVA Theatre Center and Indiana Repertory Theatre. He currently serves as the inaugural Artistic Fellow at Northlight Theatre and is a Directors Inclusion Initiative fellow at Victory Gardens Theatre. He also serves as Head of the Directing Concentration of the High School Training Program of the theatre school at DePaul University, is a faculty member of the Chicago Conservatory of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and is a core faculty member in the theatre division of the National High School Institute (Cherubs) at Northwestern University. Recent directing credits include: “This Bitter Earth” by Harrison David Rivers; “Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies” by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm; “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare; “Native Son” by Richard Wright, adapted by Nambi E. Kelley.
Logan B. Jones (Production Stage Manager) returns to the Playhouse where he previously worked on “Southern Gothic,” “Bootycandy” and “Apartment 3A.” Other recent credits include “Something in the Game” with the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University and “The Nutcracker” (2015-2017) and “The Last Defender” with The House Theatre of Chicago. Logan also serves as the project manager for Ensemble Consulting, where he worked on artistic and executive leadership transitions for American Theater Company, About Face Theatre and DanceWorks Chicago. He is the former the production manager and marketing manager at American Theater Company. He holds a BA in theatre and French from Kansas State University and is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association.
Lauren Nigri (Scenic Designer) is a Chicago based designer and Northwestern MFA Graduate in Stage Design. Recent design credits include: “Curve of Departure” (Northlight Theatre); “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); “Hinter, The Few” (Steep Theater); “Nice Girl, Betrayal” (Raven Theatre); “Souvenirs” (Milwaukee Repertory Theater); “The Scorpion Sting” (Lyric Opera/Lyric Unlimited); “What We’re Up Against” (Compass Theatre); “Sleeping Beauty” (Marriott Theater); “Harrow House” (Rough House); “Adding Machine A Musical” (The Hypocrites); “Violet” (Griffin Theater). Recent associate designs include: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Writers Theatre); “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (Lookingglass); “Beauty Queen of Leeane” (Northlight Theatre) and “Southern Gothic” (Windy City Playhouse). She was awarded as one of ten design exhibitors chosen for the United States at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial.
About Windy City Playhouse
Windy City Playhouse is a professional theater and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, located on Chicago's northwest side. Premiering in March of 2015 with a mission to present contemporary, relevant, and approach art, the Playhouse has quickly become a mainstay of the Chicago theater scene. In 2018, its runaway hit, the immersive SOUTHERN GOTHIC, solidified the Playhouse as the first choice in Chicago theater for one-of-a-kind audience experience. "Experience driven. Audience first."
For more information, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.