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  Penelope at Steppenwolf Theatre


Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

On a sun-scorched island off the coast of Greece, beautiful Penelope awaits the return of her husband from war. Beneath her window, four Speedo-clad men camp in an empty swimming pool, a cock-eyed internment where both provisions and time are running low. Locked in a do-or-die competition to win Penelope’s love, they preen and posture and connive in a last ditch effort to cheat a grisly fate. Penelope, the newest play by powerhouse Irish playwright Enda Walsh, is an eloquent, wildly funny riff on life, love and the war at home.

Thru - Feb 5, 2012

Price: $20-$78

Stage: Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre

Show Type: Comedy

Box Office: 312-335-1650

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  Penelope Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...Even though this production was hit with a last-minute cast change (John Mahoney was replaced by Letts), the lovers' quartet feels like it has a long history on the road. Jaeck lets it all hang out in so many moving ways; Peyankov, who spends some quality time in drag, has much fun with the contrast between his character's creative desperation and his own sober persona; Barford bides his time and then kicks in hard when it really matters. And Letts, blinking in the Greek sunlight like a Midwest nobody blinded by Aegean headlights, seems to have the most to lose and the most to gain. He certainly doesn't feel like a put-in actor, except to the extent that describes us all."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...The Steppenwolf Theatre production of this 90-minute drama, directed by ensemble member Amy Morton, features four intensely engaged actors — Scott Jaeck, Yasen Peyankov, Tracy Letts and Ian Barford. But try as they might, they can’t make Walsh’s play seem like anything more than a literate sitcom with existential overtones. As for Penelope (Logan Vaughn, luminous and graceful), the unattainable object of their attention, she is an enigmatic beauty who never speaks, but only floats into view from time to time to listen to the men’s last gasp pleas of adoration ­on her flat screen television video hook-up. She is above it all, yet not deaf to her suitors’ words, even if they are pathetic men locked in delusion and despair and lost lives."
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Hedy Weiss

Windy City Times - Recommended

"... If this were the sole substance of Walsh's play, what we'd have is a four-handed Waiting For Godot, or perhaps a Prison-Without-Bars play, its action centered on a carefully-selected cross-section of men, stranded with no occupation but to pass the time. Oh, but when an omen warns them that Odysseus is on his way home, they are spurred to action, each making one last desperate bid for Mrs. O.'s affections. The blustery Dunne woos her with Yeatsian poetry, the bookish Fitz bares his intimate thoughts to her, the swaggering Quinn schemes to eliminate his rivals and the meek Burns declares the simple act of love to be its own justification. We finish with one man dead (under enigmatic circumstances) and his companions resigned to their fates."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Centerstage - Recommended

"... “Penelope” can sometimes feel overly monologue-laden. The four of the men all get their turn to express themselves at great length, but each subsequent outburst further clarifies the true meaning of this abstract piece of work. And while the image of these men in Speedos is often played to comic effect (Walsh’s dialogue and the powerful cast (guided by director Amy Morton) help in this area) the underlying theme of love versus hate comes through loud and clear."

Zach Freeman

Chicago Stage Review - Somewhat Recommended

"...Penelope resembles a preposterous dating game. It delivers truly wonderful performances, interesting soliloquies and entertaining moments but fails to impact on the same levels that Steppenwolf Theatre’s previous productions have become reknowned for. When a site gag defines peoples’ reaction, the play is more of a gimmick rather than completely successful storytelling. Instead of a staggering original work or a brilliantly re-imagined classic, Penelope will most likely be remembered as “the Speedo play.”"
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Venus Zarris

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...It’s in the competitors’ monologues, as they claw through adjectives and images in frustrated attempts to justify their love, that Walsh’s dexterity with words comes through most compellingly. Letts, pinch-hitting for the absent John Mahoney, has the most moving speech. Elsewhere, when the men babble about Brothers Grimm tales or snap over Slim Jims, you can begin to wonder at the forced Speedo-clad ridiculousness of it all. When Quinn makes his final presentation, an elaborate costume parade set to “Spanish Flea,” Walsh seems to be overindicating absurdity. But perhaps that’s his point: It’s all just junk food and words till we reach the end of our odyssey."
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Kris Vire

Chicago On the Aisle - Recommended

"...There’s many a belly laugh in Walsh’s naked truths about men, or is it truths about naked men? Steppenwolf’s game foursome hurl their mutual barbs with the deftness and precision of practiced laugh-masters and straight men. If the sum doesn’t quite equal the parts, it’s worth it just to watch the Four Montys."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

ChicagoCritic - Somewhat Recommended

"...I know I will be in the minority here, blaming the place and not the play. But I saw an interesting and lively and beautiful play underneath everything. Enda Walsh is a wordsmith, the language he uses is beautiful and exceptionally written. And the play itself, I say again, I find fascinating and highly worthy of both praise and production. But, sadly, this particular one falls short. Perhaps in a few years – maybe with some Irish help – the right people will come together and create magic with this piece."
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Will Fink

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Somewhat Recommended

"...PENELOPE dives into the deep, dark end. Although the visuals and techniques are buoyant, the characters’ natures weigh me down. Yasen Peyankov has this impressive cross-dressing skit. It’s funny but I don’t get it. Why would this be alluring to Penelope? And a better question, what’s the appeal for me? You are a dick. It doesn’t matter what you put on, I can’t get over that. All these men are barbaric in their courtship. I don’t get them. So, I remain detached. I like my men, like my meat... distinctly flavorful and tender with a side of zesty bbq sauce."
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Katy Walsh

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...But even at 90 minutes, “Penelope” has its longueurs. Sometimes Walsh’s depiction of boredom too easily passes for the real thing. Still, these four aging actors deserve distinguished conduct awards for baring their diminishing returns so unflinchingly before paying audiences. A 30% body fat ratio is the best you can hope for here. Amy Morton’s surefire staging manages to make most of the moments matter. We discover that every step these guys take is part of an elaborate dance of death as they--almost graciously--embrace their fate."

Lawrence Bommer

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...Life and love! That is the substance of Enda Walsh’s newest play “Penelope”, now on the stage at Steppenwolf Theatre downstairs. This is a 90 minute production that deals with a little Greek mythology in that Penelope ( Logan Vaughn, who never speaks a line) who is awaiting the return of her husband from the wars, is being courted by other men, who feel that if one of them can win her love, will overthrow her husband and take over the leadership. There were well over a hundred competitors and now there are four!"
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theater Beat - Somewhat Recommended

"... Director Amy Morton is having a busy season at Steppenwolf, having also helmed Clybourne Park (our review), the thrilling season opener. Certainly Morton has considerable chops – if only she were working with better source material. Even Penelope’s stellar cast can’t save the show from becoming a purgatory for the audience: stranding them in they’re seats without hope of an intermission, wondering what exactly they’re supposed to get out of this experience."

Lauren Whalen

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