Well-rounded stage story: Steppenwolf's 'The Wheel' with Joan Allen and Tim Hopper opening with Chicago premiere

2013-09-19T23:19:00Z 2013-09-20T23:39:08Z Well-rounded stage story: Steppenwolf's 'The Wheel' with Joan Allen and Tim Hopper opening with Chicago premiereBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

After 21 years of living in New York with his family, Chicago actor and Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Tim Hopper describes his latest project as symbolic of how his life and career "have come full circle."

"I wanted to move back to Chicago with my family and Steppenwolf Theatre is one of those reasons I'm so happy to be back," said Hopper, who is starring opposite actress and fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member Joan Allen in this weekend's American premiere of "The Wheel" by Zinnie Harris running until Nov. 10.

Ensemble member Tina Landau is directing what Hopper describes as "the epic story by Harris," billed as a work of magic realism chronicling the trials of a woman as she attempts to reunite a young girl with her father in 19th-Century Spain.

Landau's cast of 17 not only features ensemble members Allen, in her first appearance on stage at Steppenwolf since 1991, and Hopper, but also ensemble favorites Robert Breuler, Ora Jones and Yasen Peyankov.

The National Theatre of Scotland commissioned and produced the world premiere of "The Wheel" in 2011.

Hopper said one of the reasons he was drawn to this production project is the message it sends about parents and children.

"As a parent, you fear every day about whether you are doing everything possible to care and provide for your child," said Hopper, who plays a wounded solider facing a personal journey.

"But there's also a theme that's so important about the impact of what we say to our children and how these words can remain in the child's mind for the rest of his or her life."

"The Wheel" is set on a 19-Century Spanish farm, with the main character Beatriz, played by Allen, happily preparing for her sister's wedding, when the house is overrun by soldiers. In the chaos, she becomes the unintentional guardian of a young girl, played by Emma Gordon. Her determination to reunite the child with her father sweeps Beatriz along on a journey across war zones and through time. But what began as a simple act of kindness takes on a strange twist when the girl seems to acquire curious powers.

"The landscape of 'The Wheel' is perfect for Tina," Artistic Director Martha Lavey said.

"It's the mystery of its changing setting, the magic of its images, and the epic sweep of its storythat  fit Tina's own artistry in the powerful vocabulary of the theater. With an ensemble cast of 17 actors, a rich soundscape and a striking visual world, 'The Wheel' is a complex and surprising journey.”

The production team for "The Wheel" includes Blythe R.D. Quinlan for scenic design, Ana Kuzmanic's costume design with Scott Zielinski for lighting design, Kevin O'Donnell's sound design, Stephan Mazurek with projection design, Matt Hawkins as fight choreographer and Dennis Watkins as the magic consultant.

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