"Gas For Less" at the Goodman

June 5, 2008 1:09:08 PM PDT
There once was a gas station on the Chicago's north side called Gas For Less ; it was a rowdy hangout where neighbors from all backgrounds came together to watch the Bears games. The family-owned filling station is gone, but it's been brought to life again in a new play by Brett Neveu. In its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre Gas For Less describes how gentrification ruins the small, family business and things only get worse when a sudden act of violence erupts at the gas station. Can Gas For Lessbe saved-- and is it even worth saving? That's the question the playwright poses.

Neveu drew his inspiration for the play from real-life Chicagoan Phil Berman, and his North Side gas station, formerly located at Lincoln and Berteau Avenues. "It's about letting go of the station, and letting go of his dreams of it being something that it can't really be again," said the playwright. "That station represented Chicago to me, and now it's gone."

Originally commissioned by Northlight Theatre and included in the Goodman's 2007 New Stages Series, Gas For Less explores issues of generational conflict and urban evolution as seen through the eyes and experiences of five memorable denizens of the community-portrayed by Kareem Bandealy, Robert Breuler, Nathan Davis, Rian Jairell and Ernest Perry Jr. It is directed by Dexter Bullard and runs through June 22.

" Gas For Less is a poignant Chicago story containing all of the elements that have earned Brett rave reviews from critics and audiences alike: fascinating characters, savage wit and humor, and dramatic situations which are both immediately recognizable and dramatically resonant," said Artistic Director Robert Falls. "I've wanted to bring this young writer to the Goodman for a long time, and I'm thrilled that he has chosen Dexter Bullard-who counts among his directorial successes Tracey Letts' play Bug, which received extraordinary acclaim both in Chicago and New York-to direct this world premiere production."

Gas For Less is more than a gas station to Anthony (Rian Jairell) and his tough Croatian grandfather, Art (Robert Brueler). Their family business was once a rowdy North Side Chicago hangout where neighbors from all walks of life-African American, Puerto Rican, Croatian and Pakistani-came together to watch the Bears over coffee and Camel cigarettes. But the neighborhood is changing and gentrification threatens small mom-and-pop shops. Now the pumps are out, the coffee is burnt and the customers are scarce. And things only get worse when a sudden act of violence occurs at the station. The daunting question becomes: can the gas station be saved-and is it even worth saving?

Brett Neveu is currently at work on commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club and the Royal Court Theatre; past commissions include Goodman Theatre's Ofner Prize, which resulted in Heritage (2004 New Stages Series) and he has been commissioned twice by Steppenwolf Theatre Company. His work has been produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company (Eric LaRue) and off-Broadway (Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing; twentyone at Spring Theatreworks and The Last Barbecue at 29th Street Rep). In Chicago, he is an ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre (Weapons of Mass Impact; Eric LaRue; The Meek; The Earl; 4 Murders) and has had his work produced by American Theatre Company (American Dead); Chicago Dramatists (Drawing War); Stage Left (Empty); Strawdog Theatre, Terrapin Theatre Company (the go); TimeLine Theatre Company (Harmless)-and his play Old Glory will be produced at Writers' Theatre during the 2008/2009 season, directed by William Brown. He is a resident-alum with Chicago Dramatists and has taught writing at Northwestern University, DePaul University and The Second City Training Center.

Dexter Bullard, who received a Lucille Lortel Award and Drama Desk nomination for his direction of Tracy Letts' Bug Off-Broadway, directed staged readings of Gas For Less at Northlight Theatre and in the Goodman's New Stages Series. His Chicago directing credits include Grace at Northlight; The Butcher of Baraboo for Steppenwolf's First Look; The 2007

World Amateur Boxing Championship Opening Ceremonies at the Chicago Theatre; In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, Bug, Place of Angels and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore at A Red Orchid; Tom and Jerry at American Theater Company; Better Late Than Nader with Second City ETC; Tiny Dimes at Famous Door, as well as 5XNo, Night at the Fights, Rhinoceros, Julius Caesar, Turcaret, Here is Monster, Infusoria, Fun and Nobody, and Bouncers at the Next Theatre and Next Lab. For thirteen years, he has led Plasticene, the pioneering physical theater company directing original works: Doorslam, Refuge, Volume XII, Come Like Shadows..., Head Poison, And So I May Return, The Palmer Raids, Blankslate, Live Feed, One Fal$e Note and a production in development, Until One Falls. He is Head of Graduate Acting with The Theatre School at DePaul University and a Guest Artist at The Second City Training Center.

About the Cast and Creative Team

Kareem Bandealy (Bilal Asif) last appeared at the Goodman in King Lear. Other Chicago credits include Short Shakespeare! Romeo & Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; 10 Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith, Back of the Throat and Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat at Silk Road Theater Project; Wedding Play at About Face Theatre; Oklahoma! at American Theater Company; The Real Thing at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company; and many others. He is an associate artist and company member of Silk Road Theater Project.

Robert Breuler (Art Pelenkovic) has appeared at the Goodman in Riverview, All the Rage and Spinning into Butter. He has appeared at Steppenwolf-where he has been an ensemble member for 17 years-in Carter's Way, The Diary of Anne Frank, Cat on a Tin Roof, The Infidel, The Grapes of Wrath, Carousel, The Song of Jacob Zulu, Death of a Salesman, and A Walk in the Woods. He has worked at Northlight, the Guthrie, Hartford Stage Company and the National Theatre of London. Broadway credits include The Grapes of Wrath, Song of Jacob Zulu, Death of a Salesman and Carousel. Film credits include The Crucible and Trial by Jury; television credits include NYPD Blue, Prison Break and Early Edition.

Nathan Davis (Benji Colan Vera) makes his Goodman debut. Chicago credits include the premiere production of Stonehenge at the Collaboraction Studio Series; Imminent Dangers of Love and the Afterlife with Smoke & Mirror Productions at Chicago Dramatists; The Piano Tuner at Lifeline Theatre; and A Few Good Men at Raven Theatre. Davis has appeared twice in the ensemble of the annual Pegasus Players Young Playwrights Festival. He also starred in the film The Dirty Bird, which debuted in December at Columbia College, Chicago. Davis received his acting training and BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rian Jairell's (Anthony Pelenkovic) Chicago credits include Cymbeline, Troilus and Cressida, A Flea in Her Ear (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); The Homage that Follows, Cloud 9, The Kentucky Cycle (Infamous Commonwealth Theatre); and Marlowe (Bailiwick Repertory Theatre). He is a Wyoming native and retains an MFA from Illinois State University.

Ernest Perry Jr. (Pat Munson) returns to the Goodman, where his credits include Death and the King's Horsemen; An Enemy of the People; PlayMas; The Road; Edmund; A Raisin in the Sun; Galileo; A Christmas Carol; Black Star Line; Puddin 'n' Pete; The Ties That Bind; Let Me Live; Tis' Pity She's a Whore; Miss Evers' Boys; Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Oo-Blah-Dee; Drowning Crow; Romeo and Juliet; As You Like It; Cry, the Beloved Country; The Iceman Cometh; The Merchant of Venice; and Heartbreak House. Other Chicago credits include All's Well That Ends Well, Playboy of the West Indies, Mary Stuart and Pantomime at Court Theatre; Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, Daddy's Sea Shore Blues, Pecong and Split Second at Victory Gardens Theater; Henry V, Measure for Measure, As You Like It and Cymbeline at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Meetings and Rhinos Policeman at Northlight Theatre; The Petrified Forest, Merchant of Venice and King Lear at Body Politic; Suspendus! at Chicago Theatre Company, Driving Miss Daisy at Briar Street Theatre; and 5 Rooms of Furniture at Organic Theater Company. Perry's Broadway credits include Death and the King's Horsemen at Lincoln Center Theater. International credits include The Iceman Cometh at the Abbey Theatre; My Children, My Africa at Vienna's English Theatre; The Merchant of Venice at Royal Shakespeare Company, Thalia Theatre and MC93 Bobigny. Television credits include ER, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Lady Blue, The Howard Beach Story, Early Edition, Unnatural Causes, The Watcher and The Untouchables. Film credits include Quebec, Barbershop 2, Roll Bounce, Liar, Liar, Rage in Harlem, The Color of Money, Running Scared and The Fifteen Minute Hamlet. The design team for Gas For Less includes Tom Burch (Set Design), Tif Bullard (Costume Design), Keith Parham (Lighting Design) and Joseph Fosco (Sound Design).

Tickets are $10 - $38 and may be purchased online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org, at the Goodman Theatre Box Office, 170 North Dearborn Street, or charged by phoning 312.443.3800. MezzTix are half-price mezzanine tickets available at 6pm for evening shows and 12 noon for matinees at the box office, and at 10am online at GoodmanTheatre.org on the day of performance, subject to availability. Groups of 10 or more, call 312.443.3820.

10Tix are $10 mezzanine tickets for students available for purchase online or in-person at the box office on the day-of performance; 10Tix are not available by telephone. When purchasing on GoodmanTheatre.org, enter the promo code 10TIX. Valid student I.D. must be presented when picking up the tickets at will call. Limit 4 tickets per I.D. Tickets are subject to availability and handling fees apply.


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