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  Guards at the Taj at Steppenwolf Theatre

Guards at the Taj

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

India 1648. The dawn will reveal for the first time the extraordinary beauty of the Taj Mahal, built as a tribute to the ruler who demanded its construction. But for two hapless imperial guards, the morning light brings with it an unspeakable task that will shake their faith in God, the empire and their lifelong friendship. This boldly funny and deeply moving play examines the true meaning of beauty and the cost of transcendence in a world that confuses the value of both.

Thru - Jul 22, 2018

Price: $20 - $89

Stage: Upstairs Theatre

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

Running Time: 1hr, 25mins

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  Guards at the Taj Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...Featuring artists who have long marinated in this material, Morton’s production walks the line between all of these ideas, entertaining an audience while not shirking from the violence at the core of the writing. I found myself wanting to care more about these two characters, which I ascribe mostly to the play (and the production) sometimes rushing away from the very issues it raises."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Joseph, whose best known work, "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," was produced at Lookingglass Theater in 2013, has a unique voice that requires a degree of careful refinement, of casual sophistication. This stellar production is directed by Amy Morton, the Steppenwolf regular who also helmed this play in New York (with the same cast and design team), where it won off-Broadway's Obie Award for Best New Play. Morton and her fine actors - who communicate years of friendship in a quick sideways glance - balance the play's seriousness and humor with aplomb, capturing the slightly angular reality of this monumentally expressive tall tale."
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Steven Oxman

Daily Herald - Highly Recommended

"...Metwally and Moayed are sympathetic and likable as a pair of regular guys doing their jobs. But below the surface there is a deep, abiding bond poignantly reflected in Babur's quiet plea in the play's penultimate scene."
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Barbara Vitello

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Joseph's work, directed by Amy Morton, is a piercing examination of the nature of beauty, its relationship to power, and its unspeakable costs. Though pawns of a dictatorship that does not acknowledge their existence other than as subjects and agents of oppression, ambitious Humayun and imaginative Babur, sensitively rendered by Metwally and Moayed, are profoundly alive in dialogues that roam across visions and inventions, horror and pain. Beauty and violence coexist in the same minds, in the same unfortunate world."
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Irene Hsiao

Stage and Cinema - Highly Recommended

"...Perfectly shaped by Steppenwolf ensemble member Amy Morton, Guards at the Taj is a splendid showcase for its original actors. Metwally superbly suggests Humayun's conflicts between compassion and control. Ironically, his stoic stance reveals just how much inner life this unloved son has had to repress. A dreamer in the wrong uniform, Moayed's Babur, for all his contagious remorse, represents a kind of secular salvation. But his new devotion to beauty is far from priceless."
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Lawrence Bommer

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Recommended

"...The collaboration of Director Amy Morton and Playwright Rajiv Joseph tell the remarkable story how without art, life isn't worth living. As well as the human misery and suffering that so many endured creating a beautiful work of architecture."
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Rick and Brenda McCain

Around The Town Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...As I said, the technical aspects of this production were amazing. The set ( Tim Mackabee) which seemed to be very simple at the start of the play, was in fact, a powerhouse. The costumes (Bobby Frederick II ), the lighting (David Weiner) and sound/original music ( Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen) and the fight choreography by Matt Hawkins, outstanding. As I said, the production was not where I had a problem. I think it was the ending that got me thinking if indeed the playwright intended for us to be able to grasp his thoughts."
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Alan Bresloff

NewCity Chicago - Not Recommended

"...The central message here-about how authoritarianism and unthinking obedience destroy what's valuable in life-is a valid and important one, especially today. Set in My Lai, Abu Ghraib or a migrant internment camp, a story like this one could have real impact. Set at the unveiling of the Taj Mahal in 1648, the tale has the opposite effect, reassuring us about how different we are and how far we've come. Behind the show's grisly spectacle, cockeyed comedy and moral posturing, there's a deep-down smugness and dishonesty. While pretending to challenge and provoke the audience, "Guards at the Taj" is subtly pandering to it."
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Hugh Iglarsh

WTTW - Recommended

"...In “Guards at the Taj,” now at Steppenwolf Theatre (where director Amy Morton has remounted her 2015 world premiere production by New York’s Atlantic Theater Company), playwright Rajiv Joseph explores this phenomenon by spinning a story that contrasts the radically opposing instincts of a megalomaniacal ruler. He is a man who, in the name of love and remembrance, commissions an architect to create the most beautiful building ever constructed. He also is the man who then orders the nightmarish savaging of the very people who created that building so that no one can ever build anything that might rival it."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...Rajiv Joseph’s play opens up a heated debate about how people who have achieved absolute power (sound familiar?) believe they have the right to control the entire world. In particular, this play examines the world of art, the many artists who create and the effect of their masterpieces upon the world. It also opens up a discussion about those of us who must blindly obey the orders of our employers, without room for question or debate. And, in the end, this is a stimulating drama about the nature of art and beauty and fragile is its existence in a heartless, often turbulent, political world."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Somewhat Recommended

"...Joseph gets credit for making a viable comedy-drama-horror story out of improbable material. The man can write. Metwally and Moayed can act, and Morton can direct. It comes down to a matter of taste. Some viewers might find the play a risk-taking but intriguing theatrical experience stoked by some fine acting. Other patrons will greet the final blackout with considerable relief. I didn't like the play but it clearly had its advocates in New York City in 2015."
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Dan Zeff

Third Coast Review - Highly Recommended

"...Guards at the Taj is a superb two-hander; Joseph’s writing lends itself to the kind of unspooling dialogue needed to drive a play with so few actors. Much like last year’s Pass Over, the delights of such a show come from characterization and the development of a single relationship. Here Moayed and Metwally are pitch perfect from the top—a duo that works so well together and against one another that you understand the dynamic before either one even utters a word. That’s not to say there aren’t surprises to be had; just when we think we’ve fully figured these two out, the play pivots, and shows us that it still has some nasty tricks up its sleeve."
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Matthew Nerber

The Hawk Chicago - Recommended

"...Guards at the Taj is a perfect production for Steppenwolf Theatre, and Amy Morton's stellar direction of Rajiv Joseph's text is a match made in theatrical heaven. Thanks to an excellent two-man acting team and wonderful design, this is not a production you will shake off any time soon."
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Jason Berger

Picture This Post - Highly Recommended

"...David Weiner is the Lighting Designer for Steppenwolf’s GUARDS AT THE TAJ, and he gets the chance to be the equivalent of the fat lady who sings to signal the end of an opera. Operas though often try but don’t quite reach that dead center of your soul that this script by playwright Rajiv Joseph hits with a quick bulls-eye. Before Weiner gets to do this finale twist of the knife, you will likely already be experiencing the impact of GUARDS AT THE TAJ like a microwave burn from within moving out."
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Amy Munice

  Guards at the Taj Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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