In case you are unfamiliar, the setting is June 30, 1961 at the home of Beau Coutier (Max Stewart) and his perky wife Ellie (Sarah Grant, reprising her original role). It’s the 40th birthday for Beau’s sister Suzanne, and all of their old crowd are invited to celebrate. We see the hosts frantically preparing for their guests, and we are in their house with them as “flies on the wall.” The set is truly remarkable and one of my favorite parts of this clever show, as the designer, Scott Davis, has created a “home” with open walls and added details so we feel transported to Beau and Ellie’s actual residence. The audience is free to move about, as long as we remain “invisible”: don’t speak, sit on the main furniture, or interact with the cast. You can even eat the snacks, popcorn and crackers with cheese and spam (!) on the dining room, kitchen, or back patio tables. Drinks are even served to all as part of the show.
The first time I saw Southern Gothic, I watched the majority from the dining room. I was a bit shy about moving locations. I overheard some financial travails affecting a few of the male characters. The second time, I focused on being in the kitchen and had a couple passionately kissing only like a foot away from me! Omg. There was heat in the kitchen! It was a bit shocking; I wasn’t expecting that! This third viewing, I wandered out back. Each time, I have caught a different aspect of the intertwining plots. It’s delightful. There is a LOT going on and a bunch of backstory with these “old friends.” My sis caught a detail about two characters that I hadn’t connected before.
I spotted co-creator Amy Rubenstein in the crowd just before curtain, and blurted,”I fucking love this show! This is my third time seeing it.” She was as gracious as the Southern Hospitality on display in the Coutier Home in Ashford, Georgia. The large glass of wine I had pre-show may have been partly responsible for my outburst, but my appreciation of this spectacle is sincere. It’s a blast, and I recommend that everyone see it just because it is so fascinating and unique.
New to the cast is Windy City Playhouse favorite Carley Cornelius as Lauren Lyon, who is the daughter of a politician and now married to one who is equally ambitious as her powerful father. She is a wonderful addition to the show, and I marveled at how she was sitting forlornly on the patio while chaos stormed nearby. Reese Parish is lovely as Cassie Smith, an unexpected surprise at the party.
The costumes by Sydney Moore are to die for, especially the gorgeous women’s dresses. My sis, a shoe fanatic, nudged me to point out the fabulous shoes on the party guests.
Windy City Playhouse South is right next to Petterino’s and the Goodman Theatre. You can catch dinner, then meander over to Georgia to witness some Southern hospitality and mayhem. You’ll be so glad you did. And order a whiskey sour to go with the bedlam. Cheers!
Highly recommended. 4 out of 4 stars ★★★★
Catherine Hellmann is usually at a theater production, exploring Chicago, or in school trying to mold young teenage minds. She has three awesome kids and thinks being an empty nester is simply astounding.
Windy City Playhouse Announces Cast for the Downtown Debut of Immersive Smash Hit "Southern Gothic" Produced in Association with Goodman Theatre and Greg Schaffert
Multiple Jeff Award-Winning Creative Team Including Director David H. Bell and Scenic Designer Scott Davis to Return for New Production, Set to Open Sept. 15 at New Playhouse at Petterino's Location, Adjacent to the Goodman
Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein, together with Goodman Theatre and Greg Schaffert, announced the cast and creative team for the downtown debut of the hit immersive production “Southern Gothic,” created by Rubenstein and Windy City Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Carl Menninger. “Southern Gothic,” written by Leslie Liautaud and once again directed by David H. Bell, will transport audiences to a cocktail party in 1960s Ashford, Georgia where four couples gather to celebrate a birthday. The Chicago production will welcome 45 audience members per performance to the Playhouse at Petterino’s (150 N. Dearborn, next to the Goodman Theatre) beginning Sept. 15.
Cast of SOUTHERN GOTHIC, from left to right: (row one) Joe Edward Metcalfe, Carley Cornelius, Max Bowdren, Sarah Grant, (row two) Reese Parish, Max Stewart, Anne Sheridan Smith, Miles Borchard.
The cast of “Southern Gothic” includes returning artists Sarah Grant as Ellie Coutier and Anne Sheridan Smith as Suzanne Wellington, in addition to new cast members Miles Borchard as Tucker Alsworth, Matt Bowdren as Charlie Lyon, Carley Cornelius as Lauren Lyon, Joe Metcalfe as Jackson Wellington, Reese Parish as Cassie Smith and Max Stewart as Beau Coutier.
Anchored by several members of the original production’s multiple Jeff Award-winning team, the creative team for this production includes David H. Bell who won a Jeff Award for his previous direction of Windy City Playhouse’s two-year, 606-performance run of “Southern Gothic,” playwright Leslie Liautaud, co-creator Amy Rubenstein, co-creator and dramaturg Carl Menninger and scenic designer Scott Davis, who also received a Jeff Award for the original production. In addition, the production includes Sydney Moore (Costume Designer), Aaron Lichamer (Lighting Designer), Lindsay Jones (Sound Designer), Eleanor Kahn (Properties and Details Designer), Max Fabian (Fight Choreographer), Donica Lynn (Assistant Director), Lauren Nigri (Associate Scenic Designer), Andres Mota (Assistant Costume Designer/Costume Coordinator), Rebecca Lister (Production Stage Manager), Hannah Weiss (Assistant Stage Manager), Danny Halminiak, (Technical Director), Hannah Bolstad (Lead Electrician) and Joe Johnson (Assistant Technical Director).
Hailed by critics during its inaugural run, “Southern Gothic” received four stars from Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones, who called the set “astonishing;” the Chicago Sun-Times said, “Immersive ‘Southern Gothic’ makes you feel right at home;” the Chicago Reader called “Southern Gothic” a “memorable and unique theater experience;” and PerformInk declared the show is “superb and fascinating... the kind of play that could easily develop a cult following.”
During the intimate, immersive show, audiences will be free to roam throughout the Jeff award-nominated house set, exploring various spaces and eavesdropping on clandestine conversations. Each visitor will create their own unique perspective on the evening’s proceedings. The cast of “Southern Gothic” does not interact with the audience, leaving patrons free to watch the scenes happening around them like an invisible guest, traveling from room to room and sampling period-appropriate cocktails and snacks throughout the performance.
“Southern Gothic” is presented in partnership with producer Greg Schaffert and Southern Gothic Nash LLC. Schaffert, a producer best known for the Tony Award-winning “Peter and the Starcatcher,” looks to open a commercial run of the show in Nashville later this year.
Tickets to “Southern Gothic” are on sale now and will range from $65 to $105. Press performances are slated for September 15 through 18. The production will run Wednesdays through Sundays at the Playhouse at Petterino’s, located at 150 N. Dearborn. For more information and ticketing, please visit www.windycityplayhouse.com.
About the Production
Leslie Liautaud (Playwright) has worked for over 30 years in professional theatre as actor, director, choreographer and playwright. Leslie is the author of “Midnight Waltzes” (2006), “He Is Us” (2008), “The Wreck” (2009), “Saligia” (2011) and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Millennial Edition” (2012). Her screenplays/webisodes include “Taj Mahal” (2006), “Web” (2010) and Jimmy John’s/Whateverhollywood (2010) parody web series. Leslie directed her one-act play, “The Mansion” (2010) and directed Tennessee Williams’ play “The Chalky White Substance” (2011) for the “Tennessee at 100” series both at ParklandCollege in Champaign, IL. She wrote “Spectacle Lunatique” for Redmoon Theatre in Chicago, IL (2012). Leslie’s plays have been produced throughout the Midwest United States and her plays “Midnight Waltzes” and “The Wreck” both received translations for the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent where they are used as classroom curriculum. Both are archived at the Opendoek Library in Antwerp.
Leslie has performed and choreographed for various Midwest theatres and organizations such as Ibsen Theatre, Exposure Inc., Liberty Symphony Orchestra, Worlds of Fun and Westport Ballet Company. Leslie co-founded the “People in Motion” high school youth performance program (1995) in Kansas City, MO. She is the author of the coming-of-age novel, “Black Bear Lake” and the psychological thriller, “Butterfly Pinned.”
David H. Bell (Director) returns to Windy City Playhouse after directing last season’s Jeff Award-nominated “The Explorers Club.” He is a professor and Director of the Music Theatre Certificate program and Artistic Director of the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. David has worked all over the world as a director, choreographer, and author.
His work has received 44 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, for which he has won 11; the Dramalogue Award (L.A.); the Helen Hayes Award (Washington, D.C.); five Carbonall Award nominations (Florida); a Laurence Olivier Award Nomination (London); seven Atlanta Journal and Constitution Awards; the Atlanta Circle of Dramatic Critics Award; and three National Endowment writing grants.
He has served as Artistic Director for the historic Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and as Associate Artistic Director for Atlanta’s Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre. He has had more than 40 new plays and musicals produced internationally, including the Laurence Olivier-nominated Musical “Hot Mikado.” Recently, he collaborated withNorthwestern University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in presenting “Atlantic,” a pair of new musicals at the Edinburgh Festival last summer. He has collaborated on world premiere musicals with Craig Carnelia, Cy Coleman, Russell Baker, Jimmy Buffett, Herman Wouk, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, Bob Gaudio, Henry Marsh, Barry Mason, Jim Stafford, Eddie Seago, and Mike Leander, among many others. He directed and coauthored “Knute Rockne: All-American” at The Theatre at the Center, and his adaptation of “The Boys from Syracuse,” for which he was nominated for 3 Jefferson Awards, played at the Drury Lane Oakbrook. He directed his musical “The Bowery Boys” at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and directed and choreographed “Once on This Island” at Marriott and “Hot Mikado” at Drury Lane. In summer 2011, David directed his own “Fanny Brice” musical at Florida’s Asolo Rep Theatre; wrote a program of musicals to accompany the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Washington D.C.; directed “Hamlet” at Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival and a World Premiere of HERO at the Marriott Theatre and Asolo Repertory Theatre; and wrote “The Rules Of Love” in Istanbul with Turkish rock stars Sertab Erener and Demir Demirkan. David opened “Shakin’ the Rafters” for Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre in Atlanta; directed “South Pacific,” “9 to 5,” “Cabaret” and “On The Town” for the Marriott Lincolnshire; and directed “The Comedy Of Errors,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Pericles” for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. For Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, David has directed “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” and six Waa-Mu Shows: “Another Way West,” “Beyond Belief,” “What’s Next?” “Off The Map,” “Flying Home” and “Gold.” David is currently writing and directing “The Museum Of Broken Relationships” with composer Daniel Green.
Carl Menninger (Co-Creator/Dramaturg) lived and worked in Chicago for many years. He won the 2020 Joseph Jefferson Award for his direction of “The Boys in The Band.” He also directed the 2016 production of THIS at Windy City Playhouse. Carl was one of the writers of “A Recipe for Disaster!” as well as the co-writer of our recent production of “Sons Of Hollywood.” He is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at American University, in Washington, D.C., where he ran the Theatre and Musical Theatre program for eight years. While in Chicago, Carl worked with Victory Gardens and Chicago Dramatists. In addition to working with D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre, Studio Theatre and Adventure Theatre, his play “Everything But You: A Modern Romance” received a staged reading at Keegan Theatre in D.C. Carl is the co-author of “Minding the Edge: Strategies for a Fulfilling, Successful Career as an Actor.”
Amy Rubenstein (Co-Creator) is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Windy City Playhouse. Since the theater’s premiere in March 2015, she has overseen 17 mainstage productions, including the recent world premieres “Southern Gothic” and “A Recipe for Disaster!” of which she was also a co-creator and writer. During her tenure, the Playhouse has been lauded for its uniquely contemporary approach that focuses on audience experience and has received numerous industry accolades, including 23 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, 11 Chicago Theater Awards including the 2018 Trailblazer Award, and 3 International Centre for Women Playwrights’ 50/50 Awards. Prior to her current role at the Playhouse, Ms. Rubenstein’s credits include performing with Long Beach Playhouse, Human Race Theatre, and Center Stage Theater, among others. She is a proud graduate of Brandeis University. She is also a partner at Windy City RE and Clear Investment Group, two leading Chicago real estate investment firms.
Miles Borchard (Tucker Alsworth) most recently appeared in “A Recipe For Disaster!” with Windy City Playhouse and is returning for another exciting immersive piece. Prior to the pandemic, Borchard was featured as the Teenage Boy in “Dead Man Walking” at the Lyric Opera and as Paul Morel in “Sons and Lovers” at the Greenhouse Theatre. He has appeared on film in leading roles for DePaul Productions, Philhouse Productions, and SHOED! Productions. He is also a professional circus performer, working in cabarets and street performing across the city. Borchard graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. milesborchard.com
Matt Bowdren (Charlie Lyon) is thrilled to make his Windy City Playhouse debut. In Chicago, Matt was most recently seen in “Rutherford and Son” (TimeLine Theatre). Matt is a founding member of The Story Theatre where directed the inaugural production of “Leave Me Alone!” Regionally, Matt is an Artistic Associate for The Rogue Theatre where he has performed in over 30 productions including “Hamlet,”“The Crucible,” and“Waiting for Godot.” Other regional credits include Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Repertory Theatre, Hudson Shakespeare Company, and Southwest Shakespeare. Recent film credits include, “The Lot,” “The Coming” and “Happily Never After” (Lifetime). Matt is represented by DDO Chicago and holds an MFA in Performance from The University of Georgia. mattbowdren.com
Carley Cornelius (Lauren Lyon) Carley Cornelius returns to WCP where she previously appeared in “A Recipe for Disaster!” and “Becky Shaw.” In Chicago she has had the pleasure to collaborate with Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Writers Theatre, Chicago Sketchfest, The House Theater of Chicago, and is an ensemble member of Definition Theatre (“White, An Octoroon,” “The Dutchman”). Some regional credits include work with Colorado Theatreworks (“Venus In Fur,” “Constellations,” “Detroit”), Urbanite Theatre (“The Drowning Girls”), Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (“Shakespeare In Love”) TheatreSquared (“At The Wedding”), as well as productions with Montana, Texas, Door and Great River Shakespeare Festivals. You may have seen her telling you to “read a f*^#ing book” on The Onion, searching for multiple children on NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” drinking Maker’s Mark on Hulu or trying to find a home on HGTV’s “House Hunters.” Carley holds degrees from Ball State University and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and is represented by Big Mouth Talent. #stayinit
Sarah Grant (Ellie Coutier) is thrilled to be returning to “Southern Gothic” as Ellie. Other Chicago Credits include: “Mr. Dickens’ Hat” (Northlight Theatre, u/s); “Upstairs Concierge” (Goodman Theatre, u/s); “A Very Merry Madrigal” (Theo Ubique); “Sleeping Beauty” and “Godspell” (Provision); “Hamlet Is Dead. No Gravity.” and “A Hedda Gabler” (Red Tape); “Death and Harry Houdini” (House Theatre). Regional credits include: “The Dos and Don’ts of Time Travel” (Phoenix Theatre, IN). She teaches at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and holds a master's degree in the humanities from the University of Chicago. Sarah is represented by Lily’s Talent and thanks her family, friends, and partner Anthony who plays all the parts. https://sarahmgrant.com
Joe Metcalfe (Jackson Wellington) Is beyond grateful to be returning to Windy City Playhouse! He was last seen at Windy City understudying in “A Recipe for Disaster!” where he went on a handful of times. CHICAGO: “Romeo And Juliet” (Kane Repertory Theatre), “Keely & Du” (Redtwist Theatre), “Bent” (Muse Theatre Co.) and “Grant In Othello” (Theatre Witt) – “Regional: Re-Entry” (Montana Rep), “Other Desert Cities” (Studio Theatre Tierra Del Sol, FL), “Two Conversations”… (WP - Humana) by Sarah Ruhl, “Dreamerwake” (WP - Humana) by Anne Washburn, “Dracula” (Actors Theatre of Louisville). TV/FILM: “Soundtrack” (Netflix), “NeXt” (FOX). TRAINING: Actors Theatre of Louisville PT Company, MFA – Northern Illinois University. He is represented by Big Mouth Talent. - JoeEdwardMetcalfe.com - For Cyndi, always.
Reese Parish (Cassie Smith) Reese, current DePaul Junior, is elated to be making her Windy City Playhouse debut! As a Milwaukee native, she’s worked extensively with The Milwaukee Repertory Theater most recently seen in “West Side Story,” Love in “Everybody,” and also appearing as Wendy Darling in the world premiere production of “Lost Girl.” Other theater credits include Annie in “Annie Jump And The Library Of Heaven,” Cassandra in “Bliss Or Emily Post Is Dead” (Renaissance Theaterworks) and Dorothy in THE WIZ (First Stage).
This past year Reese has had the privilege of working on web-series “APT” (Everything Bagel Productions) and was seen as Anna in “Ferdinand Avenue” and Christina in “Afterword” (Paper Crown Productions). Reese is represented by Paonessa Talent and is thrilled to be back on stage doing what she loves! Special thanks to her village who is with her at every step and bow.
Anne Sheridan Smith (Suzanne Wellington) is happily returning to the role of Suzanne Wellington and working with Windy City Playhouse again. Born and brought up in Chicago, Anne is rooted in its theatre community. Her Chicago theatre production highlights include “The Drowning Girls” (Jeff Nomination, Best Ensemble - Play, Signal Ensemble Theatre), “Once Upon A Mattress” as Queen Aggravain (Theo Ubique), “Fun Home” as Helen (Victory Gardens Theatre), “Bat Boy,” “The MusicAL” as Meredith (Jeff Nomination, Best Supporting, Griffin Theatre), “The Good Soul Of SZECHUAN” (Strawdog Theatre), 1776 as Abigail (Jeff Award, Best Musical, Signal Ensemble), “9 To 5, The Musical” as Violet (Firebrand), “Juno” as Maisie (TimeLine Theatre), “Mother Courage And Her Children” as Yvette Pottier (Vitalist Theatre). She received her B.A. in Theatre and Acting from Western Illinois University. Anne is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.
Max Stewart (Beau Coutier) Max is a graduate of The Theatre School at Depaul University and has studied at the British American Dramatic Academy in Oxford. He is a NFAA Young Arts Award Winner in Spoken Theatre and won a William Faulkner Literary Award for his play “Antarctica” which premiered at Curious Theatre Company in Denver. Recent theatre credits include: “Walk on The Wild Side” (Pale Horse Playhouse), “Sons Of Hollywood” (Windy City Playhouse) and Romeo in “Romeo And Juliet” (Kane Repertory Theatre Company). Selected TV/Film Credits include: Chicago Fire (NBC), Soundtrack (Netflix) Dir. Joe Swanberg, Worth Dir. Austin Lewis, (Best Supporting Actor Winner Nashville 48 Hour Film Festival) and Never the Bride Dir. Alex Heller. Max is represented by Gray Talent Group. Instagram: @maxflash4 CN Mason (Cassie Smith U/S) Candice (CN) is a proud native of the California Bay Area who is excited to be joining the “Southern Gothic” team. She was last seen onstage as an understudy in the 2022 production of “Middle Passage” at Lifeline Theatre where she made her Chicago debut. Recently signed to 10 MGMT, she hopes to use her platform to continue cultivating community and give life to stories of the global-majority on stage and film. When not acting you can find her being an educator.
About Windy City Playhouse
Windy City Playhouse is a professional theater and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, located on Chicago's northwest side. Premiering in March of 2015 with a mission to present contemporary, relevant, and approach art, the Playhouse has quickly become a mainstay of the Chicago theater scene. In 2018, its runaway hit, the immersive
“Southern Gothic” solidified the Playhouse as the first choice in Chicago theater for one-of-a-kind audience experience. "Experience driven. Audience first."
For more information, visit www.windycityplayhouse.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About Goodman Theatre
Chicago’s theater since 1925, Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit arts and community
organization in the heart of the Loop, distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and community engagement. Led by Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the theater’s artistic priorities include new play
development (more than 150 world or American premieres), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics. Artists and productions have earner two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards and more than 160 Jeff Awards, among other accolades. The Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” Its longtime annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, now in its fifth decade, has created a new generation of theatergoers in Chicago. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production and program partner with national and international companies and Chicago’s Off-Loop theaters. As a cultural and community organization invested in quality, diversity and community, Goodman Theatre is committed to using the art of theater for a better Chicago. Goodman Theatre’s Action Plan for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Access (IDEAA) was born out of the belief that progress means action, which includes building on the decades-long commitment to using art, assets and resources to contribute to a more just, equitable and anti-racist society.