by Peter Barnes
directed by Matt Hawkins
Season 21
April 18—May 23, 2009
"Red Noses" may be one of the best productions of the year so far. Seriously. Director Matt Hawkins is working at the top of his game with a show that easily melds top 40 tunes, real emotion and laughter at the lip's edge of a grave.
— Chicago Tribune
★★★★★ … Barnes's work feels utterly, surprisingly relevant in this inventive and kinetic staging. Hawkins's 18-actor production makes great use of both the Strawdog ensemble and vets of the House, Factory, Hypocrites and other storefront stalwarts; it's possibly the canniest assemblage of Off Loop talent since last year's Hypocrites Our Town. Punctuated by cheekily co-opted renditions of '80s tunes by the likes of Billy Joel and the Outfield (credit arranger Mike Przygoda and the self-accompanying cast) and featuring Aly Reneé Greaves's astute modern-dress costumes, Red Noses is a major achievement for Hawkins … Sarah Goeden delivers mute, wide-eyed brilliance as the good-est spirit of all, while John Ferrick finds unexpected nuance in his lead role as the noble priest. In his inviting, winningly unadorned performance, Flote hopes.
— Time Out Chicago
RECOMMENDED … Matt Hawkins has directed Peter Barnes's 1985 comedy—about a 14th-century French monk who forms a clown troupe during the Black Plague—in the cheerfully manic style of the House Theater of Chicago, of which he's a founding member ... it works freakishly well. Hawkins has stripped things down so that the show becomes a kind of communal happening. He's also updated the cultural references: the cast occasionally breaks into Reagan-era power ballads, perhaps to underscore the play's resonance with the AIDS crisis. The result is an exhilarating, hilariously unsettling meditation on the orgiastic response to mass human die-off.
— Chicago Reader
What a treat to watch this tight 23-person cast at complete ease with their challenging material, riffing off each other even as the tone constantly shifts from silly to dark to inspirational … It's rare indeed to find a show packed with gallows humor that doesn't trivialize death, yet leaves everyone smiling.
— Chicago Free Press

Think the world's got problems now? In the mid-1300's, the Black Plague wiped out half the population of Europe. HALF. More conservative estimates say one quarter. But we find HALF gets the point across better. People were dropping like flies, and the living had trouble deciding what to do with themselves. Uncontrollable weeping? Self-flagellation?

For one priest, the answer is clear: make 'em laugh. Turning a band of desperate misfits into a troupe of deeply untalented circus performers, he sets out to prove that the best defense against a cruel world is a bad joke beautifully told.

Matt Hawkins, director of The House Theatre's hit show "Hatfield and McCoy," brings Peter Barnes' epic extravaganza and its cast of 23 to Strawdog's intimate space. It's a delirious, hilarious, but entirely serious kick to the pants of death, despair, Puritanism and everything else that has it coming.

Christy Arington
Paul Fagen *
Kyle Gibson *
Sarah Goeden *
Kyle Hamman *
Shannon Hoag *
Paige Hoffman
Boutros Brother
Allison Latta
Rob MacLean
Archbishop Monselet
Marika Mashburn
Tom Mondala
John Moran
Chelsea Paice
Eric Pogrelis
Boutros Brother
Eric Roach
Michael E. Smith
Stephen Taylor
Pope/Master Pestilence
Andrew Trygstad
Peter Barnes
Matt Hawkins
Set Design
Nic Dimond
Light Design
Heather Gilbert
Costume Design
Music Director
Mike Przygoda
Stage Manager
Clare Roche
* = Strawdog company member
Photography by Jon Cole Media
Production photo by Chris Ocken
Photo by KBH Media
Photo by Donald Cardiff
Photo by John Flak
Photo by Dave Brennan
Photo by Heath Hays
Production photo by TCMcG Photography