Synopsis

One-act play.  A 20-ish man named Stu sits in a bathtub wearing only a pair of jeans, while his girlfriend Joy makes preparations to leave for Chicago, where she has taken a new job. Friends drop by to wish her farewell, Joy hops into the bathtub for a sweaty session of foreplay and Stu never stirs from his pool of (imaginary) water.

Throughout the arrivals and departures of other characters, Stu sustains a running monologue filled with visions of marine life: of flesh-eating barracudas and of fishermen seen from the fish's perspective. He intermittently adopts the persona of a prim, curmudgeonly old woman who frowns upon the flightiness of young things on the beach.

As the imagery grows more and more fierce, culminating in a description of an apocalyptic orgy, it becomes clear that all this talk is really just about a guy who doesn't want to be left by his lover. Those feelings are translated into an extravaganza of metaphors that evoke both a particular self-pity and a cosmic terror.

 
Performance History
Theatre Genesis at St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery, New York on April 16, 1965. Directed by Ralph Cook and starring Kevin O'Connor and Mari-Claire Charba
Cafe La Mama - March 13 & 17, 1966
Martinque Theater - April 12, 1966
La Mama European Tour - 1967
London - 1976

Joseph Papp Public Theater, NY - November 1996 - Directed by Joseph Chaikin and starring Wayne Maugans and Leslie Silva
Double billed with "When the World was Green".

 
Reviews

"Mr. Shepard has said he wrote ''Chicago' in one day, and the play still glows with the sense of hot, youthful spontaneity, of a mind that simply opened itself and let the images tumble out. But it's also remarkably of a piece and, if you relax and just give yourself to it, surprisingly coherent...  Ms. Silva and especially Mr. Maugans, whose sparkling energy and inventiveness never flag, are first-rate, recreating what one imagines the electricity must have been when 'Chicago' was first performed at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery 31 years ago. The result is an oddly sexual experience that both tickles and stings."   ...Ben Brantley, NY Times, November 8, 1996

"'Chicago' is vintage early Shepard, a funny, furry exercise that never quite becomes a shaggy dog story, the playwright being more intent on short-circuiting conventional expectations while playing with language... Everything about 'Chicago' suggests we're in the company of young, 1960's radical theater types who want to disorient if not shock themselves and the audience, thus to rediscover the primal effect of theater. Or something like that."  ...Vincent Canby, NY Times, November 17, 1996

"'Chicago' - and why is it called that when it could just as well be Duluth or Kangaroo? - is about nothing... Shepard can write plays that make sense, but when he tries to be absurdist or surreal, he usually fails; he doesn't understand that absurdism must be witty or charming or poetic or satirical, and that surrealism must at least evoke associations."  ...John Simon, New York magazine, November 18, 1996

 
Notes
Winner of the 1965-1966 Obie award for Distinguished Plays (along with "Icarus's Mother" and "Red Cross"
 
Publications
Five Plays by Sam Shepard - Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis - 1967
Chicago and Other Plays - Applause Books - 1981
The Unseen Hand and Other Plays - New York: Bantam Books, NY -1986
The Unseen Hand and Other Plays - Vintage Books - April 30, 199615 One-act Plays, Vintage, 2012
 
 
Photos



Sam with "Chicago" cast - Public Theater - NY - 1996

 
Notes:
Won the Village Voice's Obie Award for Distinguished Plays (1965-1966 season)