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  Purple Heart at Redtwist Theatre

Purple Heart

Redtwist Theatre
1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave Chicago

Carla has issues: a recently killed-in-battle husband, a terror for a son, a nattering mother-in-law, a mysterious suitor, weird medical problems, and an affection for vodka. Purple Heart is a sick, twisted, wickedly funny drama about love and hate that defies description and expectation, written by Bruce Norris, recent Pulitzer Prize-winner for Clybourne Park. Since its world-premiere at Steppenwolf in July, 2002, Mr. Norris has restricted productions of this explosive and volatile play. In July of this year, he granted the rights to Redtwist personally, via interview, which included approval of director, Jimmy McDermott.

Thru - Jan 27, 2013

Price: $25-$30

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 773-728-7529

Running Time: 2hrs, 15mins; one intermission

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  Purple Heart Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...Ten years after its world premiere at Steppenwolf, Bruce Norris' "Purple Heart," despite displaying Norris' well-honed gift for one-line eviscerations, feels on the hollow side. This is especially true in light of his Pulitzer Prize-winning "Clybourne Park," with which the earlier play shares some parallels. Director Jimmy McDermott's staging for Redtwist brings out some of those similarities, but it, too, remains rather monochromatic."
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Kerry Reid

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...The whole thing feels contrived and mean. Director Jimmy McDermott handles the grisly stuff clumsily, the cast fail to find the right rhythm for Norris's snappy dialogue, and KC Karen Hill's Carla is bratty and not much else."
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Zac Thompson

Windy City Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...This atmosphere of unseen menace may have been suited perfectly to Laurie Metcalf's heebie-jeebie mannerisms, but the close quarters of the Redtwist storefront dictates an intimacy that renders Norris' enigmatic symbolism more annoying than threatening, especially since Redtwist company member KC Karen Hill makes Carla, not a congenital neurotic, but a victim of crisis, exacerbated by the bullying of alleged comforters whose attentions make a pervert offering escape, while still a pervert, look downright attractive by comparison. When we care about a character, authorial cleverness can do nothing but get in the way."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

ShowBizChicago - Not Recommended

"...The dialogue is intended to be done at a rapid fire pace where the audience is constantly playing catch-up thereby giving the actors their undivided attention. The sentences are written to be as fragmented as the family itself which gives the play its heft. Moreover, the characters need to be able to talk past each other while still paying attention to the underlying pathos Mr. Norris has in store for them. Unfortunately, this pathos never materializes as the blocking constantly interferes with the overall pacing (there were entire scenes where all I viewed was an actor’s back and ass) and the actors are constantly fumbling over their own lines (and each others). Many scenes are lost entirely, especially the one’s in which Thor is supposed to interrogate his elders, which should play out like a ping-pong match. Instead it is like watching Macaulay Culkin question John Candy in “Uncle Buck”."
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Michael Roberts

Chicago Theatre Addict - Somewhat Recommended

"...This play has great dramatic potential. A woman facing a crisis, a mysterious visitor harboring a potential secret, a meddling mother. But none of it, from direction to writing to acting, seems to gel. Norris’ writing feels uncharacteristically fragmented and lazy, with a reveal that’s more sloppy than shocking. And Jimmy McDermott’s direction comes across as hesitant and, frankly, under rehearsed, with many of the rare moments of dark humor and tension lost through flat line readings peppered with bouts of yelling."
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Bob Bullen

Chicago On the Aisle - Recommended

"... It isn’t merely that “Clybourne Park” addresses social and racial issues whereas “Purple Heart” zeroes in on a moment in one woman’s life. Norris’ approach to structure and dialogue is radically different in the two plays. In the simplistic, repetitive moralizing of the mother-in-law Grace (how Dickensian) and the noisy cant of the child Thor, as well as the clipped, laconic speech of the soldier Purdy, “Purple Heart” smacks of Samuel Beckett and plays like “Endgame” and “Waiting for Godot.” Nor are we quite sure who’s in the zoo and who’s just visiting."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

WBEZ - Highly Recommended

"...Here again it takes on a one-time Steppenwolf commission, teasing out every layer of meaning in this early work by the Pulitzer-Prizewinning author of Clybourne Park. The four actors (including the remarkable teenager Nicholas Roget-King) strip back the surface of routine exchanges among a war widow, her mother-in-law, her son and a mysterious visitor so we can see the blood and muscle underneath. Director Jimmy McDermott gets the best from everybody, and Clay Sanderson takes the concept "creepy" to previously unknown heights."
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Kelly Kleiman

ChicagoCritic - Not Recommended

"...When Purdy (Clay Sanderson), an Army corporal, arrives, both Carla and Grace think he is another friend of the dead soldier. He is not. He is weird, nerdy type who seems to have a mysterious agenda. Not much happens except loads of long speeches, loads of arguing and screaming. This tedious affair wears thin quickly. The repetitive dialogue, the choppy pacing, and the flubbing of lines by Ruhl and Hill didn't help. I did like the work by young Nicky Roget-King as the attention-starved 12 year old. But with such a poorly written and plotted script, Purple Heart presents as a tedious, totally unlikable work. I'd skip this one. But don't give up an Redtwist Theatre - they usually present terrific plays."
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Tom Williams

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Somewhat Recommended

"...At its best, an unhinged Hill and a composed Ruhl bicker with daughter-in-law-mother-in-law perfection. Hill unravels with lunatic laughter as a smothering Ruhl displays her boundary issues. Even though the sparring engages with Ruhl’s big reveals, this seemed like missed opportunities for Norris’ biting wit. Another dynamic not quite right is Hill and Sanderson. A stilted Sanderson delivers an unnerving performance but then his interaction with Hill seems odd. Not quirky odd, just odd. Sanderson plays it, not so much an enigma, as a creepy dude. So, Hill's attraction to Sanderson isn’t realistic."
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Katy Walsh

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...Directed by Jimmy McDermott, who knows how to use the intimate stage of redtwist , this is a finely tuned production in a much smaller space then the original Chicago Production at Steppenwolf a little over 10 years ago. It may have sme stronger ties for audience members due to the constant battles going on in the Middle-East and the many woman who have had to deal with a similar situation. redtwist is very fortunate to have had Mr. Norris grant them the rights to do this rarely done script, and in my opinion, they deserved to have this opportunity. Redtwist is one of the original storefront theaters in Chicago so when you see a production on their stage ( which by the way , is different for each production) you have the feeling that you are that "fly on the wall" we so often hear about. A 40 something seat theater where in this case the audience sits on two sides of the stage peering into the home and lives of the play's characters, it is the mission of redtwist to "do white hot drama, in a tiny black box, with a little red twist". They always seem to nail this!"
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Alan Bresloff

   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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