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  The Whale at Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph

The Whale

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph
2433 N. Lincoln Ave Chicago

Since the death of his boyfriend, morbidly obese 600 pound Charlie has confined himself to his small Idaho apartment and is eating himself to oblivion. With his health quickly failing, Charlie becomes desperate to reconnect with Ellie, his estranged and angry teenage daughter whom he has not seen in 17 years. He would give her anything: his love, his money….maybe even his life. Written by Obie Award-winning playwright Samuel D. Hunter, The Whale is a tough, humorous and emotionally powerful play about how we cope with loss, and how new definitions of family, friends and religion shape our lives.

Thru - May 5, 2013

Price: $35-$50

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 773-871-3000

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph Seating Chart

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  The Whale Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"..."The Whale" manages to be about so very much at once: writing, parenting, teaching, religion, body image, over-eating, the price paid by gay couples born in the wrong state or just a few years too soon. But, most of all, "The Whale" is a remarkably eloquent exploration of the way the need for honesty overwhelms us when we sense that our time is short. If you find you are suddenly suffering politically cautious fools not well at all, you might especially sympathize with Charlie's lot."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"...It's a good bet you will not find five more lonely, alienated, often angry, sometimes inadvertently funny characters on a single stage than those who gather in Samuel D. Hunter's "The Whale," now in its Chicago premiere at Victory Gardens Theatre. So the question is this: Will THEIR dysfunction serve as YOUR catharsis?"
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Together with Hunter's empathic dialogue and bittersweet sense of humor, they help make The Whale a thing of unexpected delicacy, considering the subject matter. And Dale Calandra's performance as Charlie helps make Joanie Schultz's production heartbreaking. All but immobilized in a convincing fat suit created by costume designer Janice Pytel, Calandra confronts a formidable acting challenge and makes a meal of it."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...Incredible as it may seem, director Joanie Schultz pulls it off. Will Allan, Cheryl Graeff, Patricia Kane and especially Leah Karpel deliver intensely-focused performances as Charlie's comforters, but it is Dale Calandra (wearing a prosthetic suit like a full-body crinoline) who-well, anchors Hunter's densely textured parable. He forces those who would dismiss Charlie's sacrifice as unnecessary to discard their intellectual arguments until they are left with no alternative but to accept the course he has adopted, even as they cling to the hope that the fate of this Jonah-or Ahab, if you prefer-trapped within his own nemesis can yet be averted."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...That depth of feeling is matched by director Joanie Schultz and her crackerjack cast. Schultz, who's made a growing reputation on searing, tightly packed dramas on the city's smaller stages, makes her Victory Gardens debut a new height of efficiently heartwrenching storytelling. Karpel skillfully layers Ellie's matter-of-fact malevolence with an undercurrent of loneliness, while Allan imbues the well-meaning Elder Thomas with a relatable, grasping desire to make a difference."
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Kris Vire

ShowBizChicago - Highly Recommended

"...As much as Mr. Hunter’s play embraces religious metaphors, it is never once preachy in tone. Instead, the character’s are so well written that we get to see some of ourselves, whether we like it or not, in their own selfishness and hypocrisy. In the end, it is Charlie’s vision that we are left with; one that is longing for answers and longing to be loved. That, in essence, is the commonality of man (and woman) and the connectivity of human nature which is the core of this amazingly touching piece of theatre."

Michael J. Roberts

Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"...The book of Charlie's life is a lexicon of bad stuff. He is stamped with personalized definitions of suffering and loss, error and regret, loneliness and sorrow. But he's also a tome of positivism. Virtually immobile, he earns a living as an Internet writing tutor, and he's devoted to helping his young charges rise above their terse displays of ineptitude."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...The playwright Samuel D. Hunter, an Idaho native and now an ensemble member of Victory Gardens, has two plays running in Chicago. A Permanent Image (presented by Live Wire and playing at the Storefront Theater) begins with death and ends somewhere else. This play begins near death and there is little doubt where the play will ultimately take go. But unlike the first play, this one left me hopeful and certain that one can always find meaning and purpose in life. Life and its actors might not always be pretty, but in Samuel’s hands it is impossible to look away."
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Noel Schecter

ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...Hunter, who has already built an impressive reputation out East, is one of Victory Garden's newly appointed Ensemble Playwrights. Thus he's set to participate in a seven-year residency right here in the Second City. Needless to say, should The Whale be an harbinger of more things to come, it's going to be a good seven years."
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Anthony J. Mangini

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Highly Recommended

"...Bringing the Mormon zeal and innocence, Will Allan (Elder Thomas) is adorable. Within this sad and dark world, Allan is this unrelenting, hopeful light. Along with a staunch Cheryl Graeff (Liz) and prickly Patricia Kane (Mary), these lives terrifically unfold. Within less than two hours, we see everyone's past disappointments and regrets. Hunter, Schultz, and the talented cast draw us close and expose the extra burden each character is carrying around. This is an extraordinary story."
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Katy Walsh

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...This production is smoothly directed by Joanie Schultz with great feeling and honesty. In fact, one must note that the daughter, Ellie, never loses her disdain for what Charley did to her.Often, a playwright or director will try to bring a play to an ending where all the characters turn for the better. Ellie stays mad!"
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...Hunter, the playwright, describes The Whale as profundity within naturalism, a direction which Victory Gardens does its best to translate into a visual medium. Set Designer Chelsea Warren's tiny, crowded apartment, filled with essays, bags of chips and other detritus is set adrift on a black stage, creating a feeling of isolation, as though the apartment is adrift on a vast sea. And it is a voyage, one long, uninterrupted chase after truth and forgiveness, as impossible to achieve as Ahab spearing Moby Dick Hunter's script unfolds like a treasure hunt, each scene offers some gem of knowledge to the world of the play, a puzzle piece towards the greater mysteries of Charlie's past and future."

Ben Kemper

Huffington Post - Highly Recommended

"...Director Joanie Schultz does wonderful things with Hunter's potentially melodramatic script, but perhaps the wisest choice is casting Calandra as Charlie. The articulate, soft-spoken Calandra embodies the unassuming heart and soul in this heart-wrenching show. Through Calandra's deeply honest performance, we learn that it's never too late for second chances, as fleeting as they may be."
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Robert Bullen

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...Joanie Schultz's directing is perfect in its unobtrusive insights into the wildly different characters. She respects the text for its humor and the heated dramatic scenes crackle. The action has a natural, inevitable cadence that's even more impressive considering the improbable central character who controls the narrative."

Dan Zeff

  Related Articles

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Mary Shen Barnidge

  The Whale 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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