Like its earlier productions of “True West” and “Balm in Gilead, ” both of which met with big success when they transferred to New York, Steppenwolf’s 1985 staging of “Orphans”—directed by Gary Sinise and starring John Mahoney as a mobbed-up Chicago businessman and Terry Kinney and Kevin Anderson as the orphaned brothers he takes under his wing—also made a splash in New York, and was instrumental in solidifying (beyond Chicago) the ensemble’s reputation for galvanizing, in-your-face performances. In 1987, “Orphans” was made into a film (Anderson is the only original cast member in the movie), and one could argue that Hollywood was interested solely because the of Steppenwolf effect. The play is a middling affair, with broadly drawn caricatures and clichéd bromides substituting for anything pithy or abstract that could be said about the lives of warring siblings and parentless children. But the Steppenwolf production made a big impression with its no-holds-barred performances, and the obvious question arises: How does a fledgling company new to Chicago compete with the ghosts of Steppenwolf past? The unfortunately named RiMeChi Theatre Company attempts to create its own sort of madness, but the panache and searing performances just aren’t there. It is tricky business, what they’re trying to do—spin gold from garbage—and director Tom Reedy is unsure how to modulate the action between its sinister and feral moments. On the plus side, Richard Leo Madison, as the sheltered brother, Phillip, is a watchable (and believable) presence—a quality lacking elsewhere on stage. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.