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Strawdog’s “Fail/Safe” Review – Taking You to the Brink of Nuclear Winter

By Amy Munice

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It doesn’t matter if your memory is engraved with the bestselling bright red and black paperback first edition of Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s novel, or if you’ve seen the movie, or the Fail/Safe story is entirely new to you.



Nor does it matter if you spent some of your school days hovering under your desk in preparedness for the Russians coming with their bombs--- or if you don’t know what I’m referring to.


Nor does it matter if you only learned “yellow cake” was something other than a baked good in the buildup to the second Iraq war.  



Strawdog’s “Fail/Safe” will grab you—whatever your age or background-- and pull you to the edge of your seat as bombs explode and the best minds are put to the challenge of preventing the end of the world. 



Starting off slowly --and for a brief moment giving you pause that the theater troupe might not be quite comfortable in the script-- Strawdog Theatre Company’s production of “Fail/Safe” then moves quickly and skillfully to immerse you in that unthinkable zone where nuclear winter is around the corner.   We watch fallible humans have emotional meltdowns while unfailing machines and systems bring human civilization to the brink of extinction.


This is a full frontal 70-minute exploration of the horrific world that nuclear armaments are poised to unleash.   Prepare to feel all the potential for tragedy that is truly the nuclear age’s due.



This masterful production relies on an excellent script by Nikki Klix and Anderson Lawfer given life by a most able cast (Joe Mack as Congressman Raskob; Mark Pracht as General Bogan; Stuart Ritter as Colonel Casio; Lee Russell as Knapp; Brian Amidei as the ever-so-scary chicken hawk academic Professor Groeteschele; Carmine Grisolia as Brigadier General Black; Jim Heatherly as Defense Secretary Swenson; Dave Skvarla as General Stark; Conor Burke as the translator Buck whose face becomes a mirror of the palpable fear we all come to feel as the story unfolds; and Tom Hickey as the President whose shoes nobody would want to walk in.)


The acting is so compelling that you too may find yourself bereft at the lack of program notes telling you more about each actor.


The program notes, through omission, tell us that Strawdog chose to put up this production before Putin’s foray into the Ukraine.  Alas, there is no shortage of current events that help give this play thundering resonance. 


Now through October 14.


Strawdog Theatre

3829 North Broadway Street, Chicago


For tickets call Ovation Tix toll free at 866 811 4111 or visit the Strawdog Theatre Company website.




Photos:  Tom McGrath

Published on Sep 16, 2014

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