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  The Great Leap Reviews
The Great Leap
The Great Leap

The Great Leap
Steppenwolf Theatre
Thru - Oct 20, 2019

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Steppenwolf Theatre

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Somewhat Recommended

"...Yee clearly has affection for her foul-mouthed, Yiddish-quoting Saul, manifest in a hilarious monologue where he tries to get his players to stay out of trouble. And all four of the performances in Prudencio’s hard-working production are very solid; Obrero bursts with energy and talent and, more than once, Seol’s Wen is very moving. Yee has a further surprise when it comes to that character, which is a bridge too far for me, but certainly provides a poetic and resonant end to two hours of lay-ups and baskets in the theater."
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Chris Jones



Chicago Sun Times- Highly Recommended

"...Director Jesca Prudencio’s production comes off as confident and fast-moving but also somewhat sedate. The injections of the physical — mostly Obrero’s intense foot-heavy drills, a form of carefully controlled chaotic energy — are welcome but not especially integrated. Prudencio theatricalizes the aspects of gameplay sufficiently but not excitingly. Set designer Justin Humphres splits the audience in two in Steppenwolf’s Upstairs black box space, with basketball-court flooring in the middle, as if we were coming to a game. Although it works overall, it also problematically constrains the projections, which play a key role even at the compelling climax, to a sliver of space above the seating on each side."
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Steven Oxman



Daily Herald- Recommended

"...The personal becomes very political in Lauren Yee's 2018 basketball drama "The Great Leap," now receiving a strong Chicago premiere by Steppenwolf Theatre. Yee skillfully weaves fact with fiction with "The Great Leap" to pull audiences in, yet the play's uncomfortable ending and familial plot holes keep it from fully satisfying."
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Scott C. Morgan



Chicago Reader- Highly Recommended

"...Prudencio's ensemble is winning, no matter the scoreboard count on scenic designer Justin Humphres's basketball-court set. Obrero is all sinewy muscle and relentless, youthful brashness—until he's faced with the one person able to shatter his facade of hyperactive self-confidence. Seol makes Wen Chang's journey vivid: In 1971, he's stooped, deferential, and shocked by Saul's brand of U.S. aggression. In 1989, he's upright, canny, and confident, a savvy politico in a country where one misstep or wrong word can get you imprisoned."
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Catey Sullivan



Windy City Times- Highly Recommended

"...The cast-completed by Deanne Myers as the boy's cousin- is splendid, but Obrero is an utterly dazzling ball of fire in a reputation-making role as prodigy Manford Lum. Agile, lithe and rarely still for a second, his face a mask of emotions, his award-worthy performance drives the entire show. Kupferer, one of our finest veteran actors, has gruff charm to spare as always but knows when to reveal the more sensitive underside of his character. Seol is their emotional match, which he must be in a far less showy role. Myers is strong in the play's least developed role as Lum's friend and support system."
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Jonathan Abarbanel



Stage and Cinema- Highly Recommended

"...As with Cambodian Rock Band, Lauren Yee, a genius playwright with a perfect touch, finds the truths in tiny stuff and big reveals. The Big Leap is just that. It lands hard and true."
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Lawrence Bommer



Splash Magazine- Highly Recommended

"...The play is as fresh and fast as the action on a superstar infused basketball court. Both the physical behavior and the repartee, tautly directed by Prudencio, deliver up a double serving of laugh-out-loud comedy and dramatic tension. More than that, it’s a family saga, a political/racial commentary, and a philosophical polemic on the nature of personal identity."
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Debra Davy



Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Recommended

"...Metaphorically speaking, one could say that in spite of the obstacles, Yee's focal message is that "Love and Basketball," conquer all. The Great Leap has substance, and with a little imagination, you will leave Steppenwolf Theater with a historical lesson on perseverance."
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Rick and Brenda McCain



Around The Town Chicago- Recommended

"...You don’t have to be an avid basketball fan to enjoy watching “The Great Leap” written by Lauren Yee and directed by Jesca Prudencio and performed by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Yee’s original script is a tribute to her father and his basketball legend days, although it tells a somewhat different story from his. In this script, Chinese-American Manford Lum (Glenn Obrero), is a ballsy, upstart, short young man from San Francisco’s Chinatown community with the strong ambition to play on the University of San Francisco basketball team, slated to play a rematch game at Beijing University in 1989."
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Julia W. Rath



WTTW- Highly Recommended

"...In addition to the play’s timeliness, there is the sheer physical and emotional dynamism of the production, which has been staged by Jesca Prudencio (a director new to Chicago, who hopefully will be booked for a return), and the work of four dazzling actors, including Chicago veteran Keith Kupferer, and, in their Steppenwolf debuts, Glenn Obrero, James Seol and Deanna Myers."
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Hedy Weiss



Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended

"...Lauren Yee continually proves to be one of our finest, most exciting playwrights. In this supercharged Chicago premiere that’s a must-see production as part of Steppenwolf’s unbelievable 44th season, we have a story that fuses culture, history, family ties and athletics. It’s an amazing tale that leaves the audience breathless with anticipation and wonder, as Jesca Prudencio’s powerful, artistically skillful production jumps high and shoots straight into every theatergoer’s heart."
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Colin Douglas



Third Coast Review- Recommended

"...The Great Leap is an homage to basketball and to playwright Lauren Yee's father-and also connects to Chinese history and politics and the country's competitiveness with the West. Yee's latest play is now being staged by Steppenwolf Theatre, directed by Jesca Prudencio; it features a cast of four superb actors."
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Nancy Bishop



The Hawk Chicago- Somewhat Recommended

"...Yee takes a lot of shots in The Great Leap, and not all of them make it into the net. But Steppenwolf’s technical triumph and Yee’s quick-witted dialogue keep audiences captivated through the final buzzer."
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Emily Schmidt



Chicago Theater and Arts- Highly Recommended

"..."The Great Leap" is a fast-paced, energy-charged, witty play performed by an exceptional cast under the direction of Jesca Prudencio, known internationally for handling shows that incorporate a high-level of physicality."
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Jodie Jacobs



TotalTheater- Highly Recommended

"...The complexities of only four actors representing warring nations, ideologies and two generations of filial strife are mitigated by Steppenwolf's dazzling tech-coordination—stage magic encompassing vintage news footage, digital scoreboard displays, video-game light-painting, period sports-arena playlists and pivot-on-a-dime footwork—but what ultimately gets our blood pumping and eyes dripping is the likewise tightly-coordinated verbal delivery of Glenn Obrero as the questing adolescent rebel, Deanna Myers as his cautious brainy cousin, and James Seol and Kieth Kupferer as weary survivors of gladiatorial combat bestowing temporal glory on its contestants in exchange for all-too-permanent sacrifices."
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Mary Shen Barnidge



Picture This Post- Highly Recommended

"...As THE GREAT LEAP moves towards its closing dramatic buzzer, we learn about encounters from the past that impact the present in significant ways. Many scenes earlier, Saul noted “Just because it’s a free throw doesn’t make it free.” Indeed, sending a ball successfully through a hoop and scoring a point turns out to be anything but free."
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Susan Lieberman



Rescripted- Highly Recommended

"...The world, however, is so much bigger than a single game. Just as this ultimate scrimmage was set against a backdrop of protest, the Steppenwolf production is engaging with a kindred moment. It is clear that protests and civil unrest are not resigned to the past as tensions continue to rise throughout Hong Kong. Young men and women fighting from barricades throughout the city. The Great Leap is an energetic, bold, and weighty look at what it means to fight when you have nothing to lose. The fight goes on."
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Sierra Carlson