escacyMike Leigh connoisseur Shade Murray, who directed the Jeff Award-winning Abigail’s Party for A Red Orchid in 2010, will direct Cole Theatre’s inaugural production, Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy. An intensely naturalistic and darkly comic portrait of gloom and joy, Ecstasy is the story of six sharply drawn characters and their struggle against despair one evening in a run-down London flat. The production will star Boyd Harris, Maura Kidwell, Layne Manzer, Lauren PizziMichaela Petro and Joel Reitsma.  Cole Theatre’s production of Ecstasy runs Aug. 28-Sept. 28 at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago. Show times are ThursdaySaturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets, $15-$25, are on sale at

The last major mounting of Ecstasy in Chicago was Roadworks Productions’ in 1997, a dazzling production that moved to Los Angeles with Nick Offerman in the cast. Shade Murray was a young company member of Roadworks when they mounted Ecstasy in 1997, and was left in charge of the company when they took it to L.A. and never came back.

“Mike Leigh has held a special place in my heart, from my early days at Roadworks to my tenure as an ensemble member at A Red Orchid,” says Murray. “He offers character, nuance, truth, relationship in alternating waves of keenly observed humor, unexpected violence and ordinary beauty. These are also the hallmarks of the very best of the Chicago storefront scene. An apt debut for Cole Theater.”

Defying the prevailing wisdom of startups, Cole is coming out of the gate big and ambitious with a Seventies-era period drama and a six-member ensemble cast.

“I’ve always been drawn to the struggle of the underdog,” says Manzer, Cole’s co-founder and managing director. “The choice of Ecstasy as our inaugural production has to do with the underdog’s journey to get to a better place.”

Shade Murray (director) has directed Mud Blue SkyTrevorThe AliensThe Butcher of BarabooAbigail’s Party,Kimberly Akimbo (A Red Orchid); The ChosenThe Subject was Roses (Writers); HP Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth (WildClaw); Fatty Arbuckle… (The Second City); End Days (Next); The Petrified ForestThe Good Soul of SzechuanR.U.R.Marathon ’33Detective StoryWRLS #5Our Country’s Good (Strawdog); Stupid KidsSome Explicit PolaroidsSantaland DiariesNever Swim Alone (Roadworks); as well as productions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Shattered Globe, About Face and Chicago Moving Company. Upcoming credits includeLove Tapes, opening this week at The Inconvenience.

Boyd Harris (Mick) has anchored some of the longest running and most successful, community-affecting shows in Chicago in the last few years, including Northwest Highwayat The Gift Theatre and David Cromer’s Picnic at Writers Theatre. Other credits include:Hollow Lands, directed by Jonathan Berry at Steep Theatre and Austin Pendleton’s production of Bus Stop outside of Washington, DC.  Boyd can be seen in The Onion‘s hit satirical series Sex House. Born and raised in Chicago’s old Little Sicily neighborhood on the same street as Dennis Farina, Harris is a graduate of DePaul University and the School at Steppenwolf.


Maura Kidwell (Jean) has worked on plays at Court Theatre, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Royal George and The Gift. She can be seen in the role of Stats on the USA comedy seriesSirens and as Bryce Markle, GameByte reporter for The Onion. Other television credits include guest star roles on Chicago FireMind Games and Boss. Kidwell is an artistic associate with Erasing the Distance, a Chicago-based company whose aim is to shed light on issues of mental health through theater.


Layne Manzer (Len) was in the original cast of Hit the Wall with The Inconvenience as part of Steppenwolf’s 2012 Garage Rep which recently remounted at The Greenhouse Theatre. Other Chicago credits include The Jewels with TUTA, Assisted Living with Profiles Theatre, The Lady’s Not for Burning with Theo Ubique and Our Bad Magnet with Mary-Arrchie. He can be seen in the soon-to-be-released romantic comedy In Between Engagements with Armand Assante. Manzer is a founding member of The Plagiarists where he served as the managing director until 2013.


Michaela Petro (Dawn) is an ensemble member with Strawdog Theatre Company, as well as a company member of WildClaw Theatre. She’s also spent time with Lifeline Theatre, Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Interrobang and various other storefronts.

Lauren Pizzi (Val). Originally from California, Pizzi was a founding member and managing director of the San Francisco-based improvisational theater company Revolving Madness and managing director of the children’s theater company, The Story Stretchers. Work with Chicago companies includes: Griffin Theatre, The House Theatre of Chicago, Fox Valley Rep, The Plagiarists, LiveWire Theatre and Steppenwolf.

Joel Reitsma (Roy) has been working in Chicago theater and film for eight years. He just played Tye in Vieux Carré at Raven, Neal in Love And Understanding at Redtwist, Danny inMotortown at Steep (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination) and Prisoner #9 in The Brig at Mary-Arrchie. Reitsma also performs with EnSolo, a solo performance ensemble he co-founded in 2011.

About Cole Theatre

Cole Theatre Company, established in 2014, is a band of theater artists who have come together to tell interesting, thoughtful relevant stories seeking to illuminate the joy, horror, humor, sadness, triviality and humanity within the worlds we have constructed or those we have allowed to be constructed for us.  For more information about Cole Theatre’s productions and programs, visit call 773-327-1066 or email