Kirsten Fitzgerald: Best Actress Performance of 2007 - Pioneer Press

Director's Notes

By Rona Munro
Directed by Kurt Johns
Helen Lattyak, AEA Stage Manager
Steve Carmody, Set Designer
Erin Fast, Costume Designer
Scott Miller, Sound Designer
Daniel Pellant, Prop Designer
Jacqueline Reid, USA Lighting Designer

February 7 - March 4, 2007

Set in a Scottish woman's prison, IRON tells a complex tale about two women. One is a long-term prisoner, a “lifer,”Fay, and the other her daughter, Josie, whom she has not seen for fifteen years.

The Cast

Anita Deely (Sheila) marks her Apple Tree debut with this performance. After this, she will appear in Lie of The Mind at Strawdog, where she is a proud ensemble member. Previous Strawdog credits include: Marathon '33, Three Sisters, Detective Story, Fuddy Meers, Julius Caesar and The Ball of Justice. She is the percussionist for the Dust Band and played with them in True Ballad of Fall's Blessings, Strawdog's first original musical. Anita served as dialect coach for Strawdog's critically acclaimed production of Our Country's Good. She has directed Gone Home (Jeff nomination, Best New Work) for Wax Lips Theatre Company and Disco Pigs at Strawdog. She has also worked with Next, Circle, and Noble Fool, among others. She would like to thank Apple Tree for this wonderful opportunity.

Kirsten Fitzgerald (Fay) is a proud ensemble member at A Red Orchid Theatre where she was most recently seen in their critically acclaimed production of The Sea Horse, for which she received a 2006 Jeff Award. Also at A Red Orchid, you may have seen her in 4 Murders, Mr. Bundy (Jeff Nomination-Best Supporting Actress), The Killer and The Removalists. Other Chicago credits include Miss Witherspoon at Next Theatre Co, Leaving Iowa at The Royal George, Major Barbara with Remy-Bumppo, Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage with the much missed Defiant Theatre, A Moon For the Misbegotten (After Dark Award-Outstanding Performance) at Circle Theatre (& understudy to Cherry Jones, in same role, at The Goodman), A Streetcar Named Desire at Steppenwolf, as well as work with Plasticene, Shattered Globe, Famous Door, Prop, Aardvark, Ulysses, National Pastime and more.  Kirsten has worked with The Utah Shakespearean Festival and was recently seen on the season premier of ER. In addition to performing Kirsten teaches acting at Columbia College and The Acting Studio Chicago and manages the Thresholds Theatre Arts Project; a project committed to showcasing the frequently misunderstood and rarely heard artistic voices of individuals with severe mental illnesses.

Lindsay Gould (Josie) is excited to be making her Apple Tree Theatre debut. She was most recently seen as Ophelia in Hamlet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and prior to that as Froggy in the long-running Blackbird at Profiles Theatre (Joseph Jefferson Citation Nomination for Principal Actress). Lindsay has understudied at Steppenwolf and Writers' Theatre and has done readings and workshops at Steppenwolf and Roadworks. She is a recent graduate of Northwestern University.

Steven Misetic (George) is excited to jump into his Apple Tree debut with Iron. Previous credits include Jackie in The Petrified Forest (Theatre at the Center), Will in Bus Stop (Illinois Theatre Center), Talbot in Orpheus Descending (The Artistic Home), Phil in Hurlyburly (The Gift Theatre), Father Larkin in Stand-Up Tragedy (Blindfaith Theatre), Peter Stockmann in An Enemy of the People (Keyhole Theatre), Roat in Wait Until Dark (Stage Two). Other credits include the title role in My Yeti Dreams (Collaboraction's Sketchbook), The (W)hole Thing (Stage Left), Petruchio in … Shrew, Tinfish Theatre, Stage Actor's Ensemble, Thirsty Theatre, and Bailiwick. Steve has been working hard on opening Theatre Otunj, a 60 seat Theatre on the North side of Chicago, which is perpetually under construction and is due to open in (fill in the blank). Love to Mary.

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Copley News Service review
Pioneer Press review
Daily Herald review
Chicagocritic.com review
Chicago Sun-Times review
Chicago Tribune review
Chicago Tribune video review
Windy City Times review

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Highlights from the Copley News Service review by Dan Zeff

"Iron" at the Apple Tree Theatre is everything adult spectators could want in a play. It's beautifully acted, sensitively directed, honestly written, and builds to a wrenching but inevitable climax. There isn't a wrong note in the drama as it gradually but relentlessly draws its audience into a psychologically gripping mother-daughter relationship set within the claustrophobic world of prison life.

There is comparatively little physical action in the play, but the vigor and integrity of Munro's writing keeps the drama vibrant with interest once we get past the early introductory scenes. Part of the credit goes to the author's script and part to the flawless production at the Apple Tree, which fits perfectly into the theater's intimate new theater performing space.

Kirsten Fitzgerald portrays Fay with stunning truth, a woman who killed her man in a fit of anger and regretted it two seconds after the act and loves him still. But she's a skittish and sometimes unstable woman who likely will never convince parole authorities she's fit for the outside world. She detests prison life and longs for the sensory delights of the outside world, but her sense of guilt demands she stay in prison.

Lindsay Gould continues her ascent in the Chicagoland theater-acting pyramid as Josie. The petite Gould makes a striking visual contrast with the hefty Fitzgerald, as if emphasizing the physical as well as psychological gulf between the two characters. Her Josie gradually grows as a person as she becomes obsessed with her mother, the first real anchor in her meandering life. Her passion for Fay makes the final scene all the more poignant.

Steve Misetic and Anita Deely are perfect as the two guards, forever intruding on the prisoner's space, following the prison rules to the letter, and yet coming across as real people enduring in their way the same restrictions as the inmates in prison culture.

Kurt Johns directs with a sure but unseen hand, each scene unfolding naturally and credibly. Johns steers his ensemble through the script to ensure that the play never descends into talkiness, or worse, melodrama. Steve Carmody (scenic designer), Erin Fast (costume designer), Jacqueline Reid (lighting designer), Scott Miller (sound designer), and Dan Pellant (properties designer) combine to give "Iron" the stark look and sound of prison life. Dialect coach Linda Gates does a fine job of instilling convincing English and Scottish accents into the cast, though one wonders if the play would not have been just as effective relocated in America with regional American accents.

The show gets a rating of 4 stars.

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Highlights from the Pioneer Press review by Catey Sullivan

It's an unfortunate combination, that of true love, blinding rage and a handy kitchen knife. That's essentially all the detail the audience gets about the homicide that shapes "Iron," Rona Munro's precisely worded, emotionally loaded drama.

In Kristin Fitzgerald and Lindsay Gould, director Kurt Johns has a core cast up to the raw, wounding dialogue unleashed as 25-year-old Josie (Gould) attempts to forge a relationship with the inmate mother Fay, (Fitzgerald) she hasn't seen in 15 years...

In guards Sheila (Anita Deely) and George (Steve Misetic), Munro complements the mother/daughter foundation of "Iron" with a subtle portrait blurring boundaries...

..."Iron" is no expose of prison injustices. It's simply a rich, deeply human story. In Fitzgerald, "Iron" has an actor all but capable of moving mountains to tears with the subtlest flicker of expression. Gould's cold, collected exterior perfection provides the ideal counterpoint in Josie.

In all, "Iron" is as solid as its title implies.

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Highlights from the Daily Herald review by Barbara Vitello

The play, which opened this week at Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park, centers on Fay (2006 Jeff Award winner Kirsten Fitzgerald whose raw, powerful performance should earn her another nomination), who's serving life in a Scottish prison for the murder of her husband. After 15 years, Fay's estranged daughter Josie (the exquisitely vulnerable Lindsay Gould), a lonely, rootless 25-year-old seeking to ground herself, arrives at the prison.

Memories are the currency of the relationship they re-establish under the watchful eyes of a pair of prison guards: the suspicious Sheila (Anita Deely) and the sympathetic George (Steve Misetic) within the confines of designer Steve Carmody's grim, cheerless visiting room.

With Fay refusing to discuss the murder (and Munro parsing out details sparingly), "Iron" emerges as something of a mystery. At the same time, it's a provocative domestic drama about the repair and resumption of a relationship derailed.

It's a well-directed (by Kurt Johns), superbly acted production with a standout turn by Fitzgerald. By turns loving and manipulative, cruel and paranoid, frightened and desperate, Fitzgerald's Fay exists on the edge of madness. It's a remarkable thing to see.

3 stars

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Highlights from the Chicago Tribune review by Chris Jones

"Iron," a widely admired British drama that played the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2003 to great critical acclaim, gets a belated Chicago-area premiere at the Apple Tree Theatre under the taut direction of Kurt Johns (who used to work at MTC). It is a superb script. If you've ever had the experience of meeting a long-absent parent, or been close to someone going through such a thing, you'll recognize its essential veracity. People are messy. Time lost is irrecoverable, even with the best intentions. Relationships forged in such circumstances can be valuable, but they never are easy.

And there's another matter in play. Fay (Kirsten Fitzgerald) is a criminal. Is her act of violence forgivable in the circumstances? Munro (who also wrote "Bold Girls") dangles that question throughout the play, but there are no liberal pieties. The play seems to say that murderers, criminals, drug addicts and the like may have their own reasons for doing what they do, and those reasons may even merit sympathy, but that doesn't absolve responsibility. Getting close to a killer is dangerous and disappointing. In that regard, "Iron" has as much in common with "Silence of the Lambs" as "White Oleander." But it also has far more human compassion for all parties involved.

John's well-cast... show features the rising young actress Lindsay Gould (recently Ophelia at Chicago Shakespeare Theater) in the role of Josie. Emotional and empathetic, Gould offers further evidence that she has quite the career ahead. ...Fitzgerald is typically honest, decent and struggling as Fay. Munro also writes in two prison guards who do a lot more than guard. And both Steve Misetic and Anita Deely are splendidly complex.

The players...have a moving show, replete with rich truths about the vexing disconnections of life.


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Highlights from the Chicagocritic.com review by Tom Williams

Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park is offering one of the finest plays of the year. Rona Munro's script is an unsentimental work that unfolds as a psychological drama full of subtle, tense and harrowing drama.

Set in a Scottish women's prison, Iron tells the story of a “lifer” Fay (Kristen Fitzgerald in a most riveting and nuanced performance) is in prison for murdering her husband 15 years ago. Her daughter, Josie (the charming Lindsay Gould) after a 15 year absence, decides to visit her mother to find out about her father with whom is has no memories and to reestablish a relationship with her mother.

This play, written in 2003, is a tense character sketch that unfolds as gradual emotional journey that has clever twists and a plausible conclusion. The two prison guards, George (Steve Misteic) and Sheila (Anita Deely) add depth to the show as they are not the stereotyped prison guards.

This well written play is a fresh take on the clichéd daughter meets estranged mother structure. We wonder why Jay killed her husband; she had never told anyone her motive. The dramatic tension is weaved as Josie and Fay interact during the prison visits. This splendid play has a most satisfying structure. It'll grab you and hold you tight until the end. This is a tremendous, marvelously acted beautifully paced show. Director Kurt Johns has a mounted a gem. Don't miss this powerful play.

Highly recommended

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Highlights from the Chicago Sun-Times review by Hedy Weiss

Much has been written in recent years about the devastating impact on children of a parent's incarceration. In Rona Munro's play "Iron," now in an exceptionally well-acted production at Highland Park's Apple Tree Theatre, the Scottish dramatist explores the long-term effects on both parent and child. The play offers impressive insights into the many subtle psychological adjustments made by both a mother serving a life sentence for murdering her husband, and by her now grown daughter, who was robbed of both a father and mother as a result of the crime.

[Kirsten] Fitzgerald is a brilliant actress whose physical and emotional life onstage are so authentic you sometimes fear for her health. Tiny and taut, [Lindsay] Gould holds her own every step of the way, even giving brilliant little flashes of her mother's temper at moments -- flashes tempered by a very different psyche.

To her credit, Munro also has made the prison guards real people with complex personalities, and they are expertly played here by Steve Misetic and Anita Deely. Kurt Johns has done a first-rate job overall...


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Highlights from the Windy City Times review by Jonathan Abarbanel

Go see Iron and you'll see two women acting their hearts out in a drama that puts them through the many paces and faces of a mother-daughter relationship. It's a splendid showcase of laughter, tears and tension for Kirsten Fitzgerald (Fay) and Lindsay Gould (Josie), as directed by Kurt Johns.

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Director's Notes

Rona Munro's play Iron is not about prisons, though it takes place in one. It's not about murder, though it is built on one. I was introduced to it while I was working for Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City. I was both intrigued and moved by it. In researching it I became aware of its astounding critical success in London and Scotland.

Because I have two sisters, I have observed that tumultuous and powerful mother-daughter relationship which is at the heart of this play. In Iron , Fay and Josie struggle to have their relationship entirely in a prison visiting room. Like John Patrick Shanley in Doubt , Rona Munro leaves much about the central crime unsaid, allowing the audience to speculate about circumstance and motivation as they are drawn toward the ending. The play's ending doesn't take us where we expect it to go.

This is a provocative, intimate, and moving play about shame, damage, love, and fear. Are there any circumstances in which you could commit murder?

It is a harrowing journey through Iron . I'm so excited to do this work with these actors. I hope that you are as compelled by it as I am. I would like to thank Eileen and Apple Tree for including it and me in their season.

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