Kick-Back Friday: #50
Congratulations to Chicago stage actor Michael Shannon, who received an Academy Award nomination this week for his supporting role in Revolutionary Road.
I first saw Shannon onstage several years ago at a tiny Chicago venue, A Red Orchid Theatre,* where he reprised his role as the very disturbed Peter in Tracy Letts‘s very disturbing Bug. Shannon’s performance was possibly the most riveting I’ve seen in any theater (his leading lady, Kate Buddeke, was also outstanding).
Since that rare experience, I’ve seen Shannon in several other stage productions, including Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, Craig Wright’s Lady, and Denis Johnson’s Shoppers Carried by Escalators Into the Flames. In all cases, Shannon either supported the beauty of the work (as in the case of The Pillowman) or transcended it (as in the case of Johnson’s theatrical misfire).
The same can be said of Shannon’s consistently engaging work in a wide and growing list of films—as well as an obligatory “Law & Order” episode. However, I’ve found Shannon most compelling when he’s embodied the very odd guy in a thin shell of normalcy, as he did in Revolutionary Road. (I’m prone to imagine that this is how the actor himself routinely goes through life.) A currently available example on DVD is Shannon’s interpretation of US Marine Dave Karnes in World Trade Center (2006), a surprisingly intimate treatment of the 9/11 tragedy, given that the production was steered by blowhard Oliver Stone.
* At 1531 N. Wells. I’m terrible at square-footage estimates, but the seating area was probably the size of a large living room. It’s important to state that I’ll never see the movie version of Bug, lest the film spoil my memory of the stage production.
Photo of Michael Shannon from A Red Orchid Theatre.