Mysterious music triggers brain-twisting play at Theatre of Western Springs
David Rodriguez (from left), Sharon Kushiner, Mike Janke and Laura Leonardo Ownby in David Gilman’s drama “Ghost in the Machine,”
‘Ghost in the Machine’
The Theatre of Western Springs, 4384 Hampton Ave.
8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 7-17, plus 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10
(708) 246-3380; www.theatrewesternsprings.com
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:18AM
Twenty years ago, Rick Snyder starred in a play called “Ghost in the Machine” at Steppenwolf Theatre where he is an ensemble member. “It intrigued me then and it’s intrigued me ever since,” he said.
The Wheaton resident finally has a chance to revisit that work. He is directing a production of David Gilman’s drama for the Theatre of Western Springs, where he is artistic director.
“It’s just as fascinating as I remember it being,” he said. “We have a really good cast and it’s a real thrill to be working on it again as a director.”
Snyder described the play as “sort of a sexual, intellectual whodunit but it gradually builds in intention and emotions. It’s a bit of a brain-twister and I enjoy that.”
David Rodriguez of Lombard plays musicologist Matt, Snyder’s former role. “Matt is a believer,” Rodriguez said. When he discovers a randomly generated sequence created by an electronic music composer exactly matches a 15th century chorale, “He simply accepts it. He wants everybody to share in his excitement.” But is it really a phenomena or fraud? And if it is fraud, who is the perpetrator?
Matt and his girlfriend Kim, a game theorist who helped him discover the phenomena, are in Boston to deliver a paper about their discovery at Harvard. The couple is staying with Matt’s friend and colleague Nancy and her husband Wes.
Kim is played by Sharon Kushiner of Willow Springs. “She really likes to do what she does for work in real life,” Kushiner said. “She likes to ask a lot of questions — even when they’re not appropriate question — and figure out why people are doing what they’re doing. She likes to throw monkey wrenches into conversations and see what happens. She is a player. She likes to find out about other people but she does not reveal her hand. There’s a little bit of a mystery about her.”
La Grange resident Laura Leonardo Ownby plays Matt’s friend and host Nancy. Like Matt, Nancy is a musicologist, specializing in classical music. “She’s pretty even keel,” Ownby said. “She doesn’t lose her temper. She’s a pretty cool person. She has a sense of humor.”
During the course of the play, Nancy “wants things to be normal. She wants control.” That becomes an issue because of the way Kim “pokes at everybody,” Ownby said. “We all lose what we perceive of as control of our situation.”
Slipping into character, Ownby added, “A lot of questions come up about my relationship with my husband and about infidelity.”
Mike Janke of Downers Grove plays Nancy’s husband Wes. “He is a professor of comparative religions,” Janke said. “He’s very analytical. He’s an agnostic at best, maybe an atheist even. He’s fairly set in his ways but becomes kind of obsessed with money [$50 disappears from his wallet] and one of the other characters in the play that pulls him out of his comfort zone.”
Wes’ motivations are a little cloudy, Janke indicated. “He wants the truth but he wants to hide the truth,” the actor posited.
Discussions between these four characters get hot and heavy and then, director Snyder revealed, “There’s a surprise twist at the end that’s kind of cool.”