Brian Dennehy’s Chicago Life

“I probably should have lived in Chicago,” says Brian Dennehy, who is coming to the Goodman Theatre in January. “It’s such a great theater town. There is such a nurturing atmosphere there.”

 

Make It Better managed to catch up with the busy actor via phone from Philadelphia.

“And a lot of it has to do with Bob (Falls) and my work at the Goodman,” adds Dennehy, who has appeared on stage, the big screen and numerous television shows.

The two had met almost by chance in the early 1980s while Falls was artistic director at Wisdom Bridge.

“He’d already done ‘Hamlet’ with Aidan Quinn and ‘In the Belly of the Beast’ with Billy Petersen, so he was known,” Dennehy says. “Then I got a call from my friend director Steve Robman about this little theater on the north side of Chicago that was going to do ‘Rat in the Skull.’”

That was the beginning of the decades-long friendship between Falls and Dennehy.

“Falls made a rule,” he reveals, “that we would always try to do really difficult things, things that nobody else would go near. We weren’t sure that we could do it, but we went ahead and tried.”

Their latest collaboration is also far from run-of-the-mill. They are bringing a pair of one-acts—”Hughie” by Eugene O’Neill and “Krapp’s Last Tape” by Samuel Beckett—to Goodman prior to Broadway, and it was Dennehy’s idea.

These two plays are both by Irishmen, but the parallels go far beyond origin, and that’s what makes them a good fit for each other.

“Both were by writers at the end of their productive careers,” he says. “They were looking back, trying to understand where they had succeeded and where they had failed, both as individuals and in the theater.

“‘Hughie’ is a philosophical play and reflects O’Neill’s attitude toward life. Which is what ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ does also,” he observes. “They come to different conclusions, but the works make up a complete evening.”

Dennehy’s pleasure in bringing these two pieces to the Goodman—and in working with Falls—was obvious.

“I got lucky,” he said. “Bob and I stumbled over each other.”