Northlight Theatre opens 40th Anniversary Season with the Midwest Premiere of Amanda Peet’s ‘The Commons of Pensacola’

Commons-300x300Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, presents the second-ever production of The Commons of Pensacola by Amanda Peet, directed by Robin Witt.  The production will run at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie, from September 12 – October 19, 2014.  

Judith is a woman in exile, relegated to a Florida condo after her husband’s Madoff-like crime shave expelled her from a luxurious life.  Family ties are tested when her daughter Becca comes to visit for Thanksgiving, joined by Becca’s filmmaker boyfriend and rebellious niece.   Guilt by association, lost wealth, and questionable motives make trying to love your family an uncommonly difficult challenge in this funny, incisive and timely new drama.

Artistic Director BJ Jones comments, “Fresh from its New York premiere, Northlight is proud to present The Commons of Pensacola, directed by Robin Witt, one of Chicago’s hottest directors. Examining the collateral damage wrought by a crooked Wall Street financier, Amanda Peet stirs the embers of one family’s scorched life.  Northlight kicks off its 40thAnniversary with fresh new work, brimming with topicality, starring Northlight favorite Linda Kimbrough and Lusia Strus.”

The cast of The Commons of Pensacola includes Erik Hellman (Gabe), Leah Karpel (Lizzy),Linda Kimbrough (Judith), Lily Mojekwu (Lorena), Lori Myers (Ali), and Lusia Strus(Becca).

The creative team includes Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic), Emily McConnell (costumes), Sarah Hughey (lighting), Nick Keenan (sound), and Kristin Leahey (dramaturgy).  Rita Vreelandis the stage manager.

Amanda Peet (Playwright) has starred in numerous films including Something’s Gotta GiveIgby Goes DownSyrianaThe Whole Nine Yards, and Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give. On television she starred in the WB drama Jack and Jill, as well as Aaron Sorkin’sStudio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  Her theatre credits include the Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park (opposite Patrick Wilson) and Off-Broadway productions ofBreak of Noon and This Is How It Goes, both by Neil LaBute. Peet will next be seen in the HBO comedy Togetherness, created by the Duplass brothers. Her play The Commons of Pensacola premiered at the Manthattan Theatre Club with Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker. A native New Yorker, Peet resides in Los Angeles with her husband, the writer David Benioff, and their two daughters.

Robin Witt (Director) is an artistic associate at Steep where she directed MotortownLove and MoneyPornography, Harper ReganParlour Song, and Breathing Corpses. She is also an ensemble member at Griffin where she directed Men Should Weep, Flare Path, and Stage Door. Other theaters Robin has worked for include Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, A Red Orchid, The Artistic Home, and Everyman (Baltimore). Last year she directed Juliet: A Dialogue About Love for ‘sacred playground theatre’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Robin is an Assistant Professor of Directing at UNC Charlotte, and she is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts (BFA) and Northwestern University (MFA). She will be directing Alistair McDowall’s Brilliant Adventures for Steep in July 2015.  

Erik Hellman (Gabe) is returning to Northlight after appearing as Uncle Louie in Lost in Yonkers. Chicago credits include Luna Gale (Goodman); Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, Proof (Jeff Award Nomination—Supporting Actor), The Comedy of Errors, The Mystery of Irma Vep (Jeff Award Nomination—Lead Actor), Titus Andronicus, and Arcadia (Court); Eastland (Lookingglass); Hesperia (Writers); The Madness of King George III, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, and Edward II (Chicago Shakespeare); Honest, The Elephant Man, and Huck Finn (Steppenwolf); All My Sons (TimeLine); as well as shows at Next, Chicago Dramatists, Remy Bumppo, The House Theatre of Chicago, and as a company member of Strawdog. Outside of Chicago, Erik has appeared at Milwaukee Repertory, Geva, Syracuse Stage, Indianapolis Repertory, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Houston’s Stages Repertory, and Off-Broadway at The Mirror Repertory.  Film/TV work includes The Dark KnightThe Chicago Code, Boss, Betrayal, and as Dr. Alec Willhite on Chicago Fire and Chicago PD.

Leah Karpel (Lizzy) is making her Northlight debut.  Chicago credits include: Buena VistaThe Glass Menagerie, and The Hot L Baltimore (Steppenwolf); AppropriateThe Whale, and We Are Proud to Present… (Victory Gardens); Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom (Strawdog); and Punk Rock (Griffin).  Regional credits include: 4000 Miles (Long Wharf); Ten Chimneys (Milwaukee Rep); Half And Half (Penguin Rep); The Play About My Dad(CollaborationTown); and Evanston: A Rare Comedy (HERE Arts/PS 122).  Leah received her BFA from Boston University and is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf. Next up: the world premiere of Sam Hunter’s Pocatello at Playwrights Horizons.

Linda Kimbrough (Judith) has appeared at Northlight in Ten ChimneysA Life and Better Late(both opposite John Mahoney), She Stoops to ConquerRed HerringThe GamesterHearts, and The Old Neighborhood.  Most recently she played Feste in Twelfth Night (Baltimore Center Stage), Silda in Other Desert Cities (Goodman), and the Mother in GNIT as part of the Humana New Plays Festival (Actors’ Theatre of Louisville). She is proud to have originated roles in four of David Mamet’s plays: EdmondReunionThe Water EngineSquirrels, and in his adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.  Movies include State & MainSpartanRed BeltHomicide, and The Phil Spector Story (with Al Pacino) for HBO.

Lily Mojekwu (Lorena) is working with Northlight for the first time. This summer, she performed in King Richard III and Twelfth Night (Lakeside Shakespeare).  Some favorite Chicago credits include Welcome Home Jenny SutterThe Overwhelming (Jeff Nomination – Best Production), and Well (Next, where she is an Artistic Associate); fml: How Carson McCullers Saved My LifeThe Elephant Man, and The Brother Sister Plays (Steppenwolf);Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare); A Twist of Water (Route 66); and Greensboro: A Requiem (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination – Best Supporting Actress) and In Arabia We’d All Be Kings (Non-Equity Jeff Award – Best Ensemble) at Steep.

Lori Myers (Ali) was last seen as Maggie in Robin Witt’s critically acclaimed Men Should Weep(Griffin). Favorite roles include Julia Gibbs in David Cromer’s Obie & Lucille Lortel Award-winning Our Town (Hypocrites) in a record-breaking run in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles; Theresa in Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation (Victory Gardens); Mother Courage in Mother Courage and Her Children (Vitalist); and Paula in Mrs. Klein (London, UK).  Mrs. Myers has worked with Steppenwolf, Upright Citizen’s Brigade, The Building Stage, Bailiwick Rep, Theatre Wit, Shattered Globe, Vitalist, Redmoon, Next, and countless other vibrant storefronts in Chicago, New York, and London.

Lusia Strus (Becca) is so happy to be at Northlight where she earned her Actor’s Equity Card in their inaugural production at the North Shore Center, Atomic Bombers. Select Chicago credits include IronboundGood People (Jeff Award nomination), her own solo show It Ain’t No Fairy Tale (LA Weekly Award – Solo Performance), HysteriaOur Town, and Whispering City (Steppenwolf); Love’s Labours LostMerry Wives of Windsor, and Henry IV (Chicago Shakespeare Theater/Royal Shakespeare Company); Go Away Go Away (Jeff Award – Principal Actress) and Slavs! (European Rep); and many years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (Chicago and New York City) as a Neo-Futurist. Other recent credits include Enron and Elling (Broadway); The Retributions (Playwrights Horizons); Travesties andAre You There, McPhee? (McCarter). Film and television credits include Restless50 First DatesCottonKelly and CalThe MendModern FamilyBlue BloodsWayward Pines, and recurring roles on web series Jack in a Box and Whatever This Is. Lusia lives in New York City but is Chicago to the bone.

The Box Office is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie.  Box Office hours are MondayFriday 10:00am-5:00pm, and Saturdays12:00pm-5:00pm. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The Box Office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.

Northlight is continuing its popular special event series in conjunction with each production. All events are free for subscribers and ticket holders. 

Post-Show discussions with a Northlight facilitator, engaging audiences in a dialogue about the play’s themes and the creative process behind live theatre, will be held after the following performances: 9/14 at 2:309/16 at 7:30, 9/17 at 7:30, 9/24 at 1:00,9/28 at 2:3010/8 at 1:00.

Backstage with BJ is a mid-day discussion with Artistic Director BJ Jones, featuring special guest artists, actors, directors and designers, offering behind-the-scenes insight into each production while it is still in rehearsal.  Backstage with BJ for The Commons of Pensacola will be held on Friday, September 5 at 12:00pm and will last approximately one hour.  Reservations are required, 847.679.9501 x3605 orspecialevents@northlight.org.

Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.

Now in its 40th season, the organization has mounted nearly 200 productions, including over 40 world premieres.  Northlight has earned 151 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 28 Awards.  As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.

The Commons of Pensacola is supported in part by Feldco. The 40th Anniversary is supported by season sponsor BMO Harris Bank and lighting sponsor ComEd.

Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from BMO Harris Bank; Cramer- Krasselt; Draft FCB; The  Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; ComEd, An Exelon Company; Edgerton Foundation for New American Plays Award; Evanston Community Foundation; First Bank &  Trust; The Homestead Hotel; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Melvoin Award for Playwriting; Modestus Bauer Foundation; North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Foundation; NorthShore University HealthSystem; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; Plante Moran; Pioneer Press; Quince at the Homestead; The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation; Room & Board; Sage Products; Sanborn Family Foundation; The Shubert Foundation; Skokie Fine Arts Council; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; Tom Stringer Design Partners; Vi at The Glen;  the Venturous Theater Fund; and The Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation.

  • The Commons of Pensacola kicks off Northlight’s 40th Anniversary Season.  In the upcoming season, Northlight is producing two world premiere works (White Guy on the Busand Shining Lives: A Musical), the second-ever productions of two plays (The Commons of Pensacola and Outside Mullingar) and a classic rarely produced in the US (The Mousetrap).  In addition, Northlight has a number of new works in development through Interplay, a program that has sent 25 out of 29 scripts on to full professional productions throughout the country and developed Northlight’s three best-selling plays: Better Late by Larry Gelbart and Craig Wright, The Outgoing Tide by Bruce Graham and Chapatti by Christian O’Reilly.
  • In the previous few seasons, Northlight hired early-career directors to much success, including Kimberly Senior (The Whipping Man) and Devon de Mayo (Lost in Yonkers).  This season, Northlight is introducing directors Robin Witt (The Commons of Pensacola) andJonathan Berry (The Mousetrap) to its audiences.
  • The Commons of Pensacola was a recent New York hit and starred Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker.