After a long and stressful week at work there is nothing more reenergizing than walking into the open and cheery arms of the House theatre staff and ensemble. This is a theatre group where their House is your home and in their latest production entitled The Attempters by master scriber Shawn Pfautsch (Hatfield & McCoy) this has never been more the case. In their temporary space at The Building Stage, the unique space is transformed with dining room tables and sofas to make you feel at ease.
And at ease is the exact feeling you get with the House's latest hit which chronicles the coming of age story of Danny Hackles, one of the funniest, sincere and likable characters to be created for the stage. Throughout The Attempters there is a definite feeling that you are watching a teen angst version of Don Quixote. Half Ferris Beuller and half Kramer from Seinfeld Danny Hackels is magnificently brought to life by the genius performance of Chris Mathews. Mathews brings us into his Quixoteon philosophy of not seeing life as it is, but as it should be. With abounding energy and an infectious personality, Mathews effortlessly embodies Hackles' innocence and takes his friends along for the ride, including his modern day Sancho Panza, Finn McKay, played to great empathy and hilarity by Johnny Arena.
Of course Quixote must have his Dulcinea and in The Attempters, Hackles becomes drawn to Nola Charley (the perky yet soulful Mary Winn Heider) for whom he lays down his gauntlet (or in this case guitar) to woo her away from his music stealing rival Wayne Vane played by the ever stoic Matt Holzfeind (who performs my new favorite version of ‘Danny Boy').
Leaving the anecdotes from Quixote aside, The Attempters works on all the highest levels. Giving us at first glance one dimensional relationships, the story unfolds and transforms into how self awareness can change and evolve every relationship, from best friends to family to foes. From great original music (a House staple) by Andy Wagner and tight direction by Marika Mashburn to a laid back atmosphere that engulfs you into the world of Danny Hackels, this is surely a work that stands on its own merits. Although as The Attempters will be done by other theatre companies, you will be hard pressed to find a more honest, fun loving and in depth character study then Chris Mathews gives his alter ego.
The Attempters plays through April 19, 2007 at The Building Stage, 412 Carpenter St., Chicago, Illinois. For show times and ticket information please visit www.thehousetheatre.com or The House box office at (773) 251-2195.
Pictured: Chris Mathews as Danny Hackles
Photo by: Michael Brosilow