Even if the script was a little strange, director Ann
Filmer admits she was intrigued with "Golf," Chicago writer
Susan Hahn's first play. The show begins previews on Friday at Circle
Theatre in Forest Park.
In this "dark and sensual tale," Coco Chanel, the legendary
French fashion designer, fits Eva Braun, Hitler's mistress, for a dress.
Chanel and Braun never met, but in using historical figures, Hahn examines
how two very different women handled the powerful men in their lives.
For that matter, Chanel never married Arthur Capel, the love of her life,
Braun had a complex, and largely mysterious, relationship with history's
most notorious dictator. The story is told from the perspective of Chanel,
a woman who had great power over the world of fashion.
"We do see an attraction between Hitler and Coco -- the attraction
of power," Filmer reveals. "Eva Braun is a more lovable character
than you thought she would be. It's a play about power: we are all drawn
to it; we all have it inside of us."
Obviously, it's a provocative script, but Filmer, a Chicago director,
producer and choreographer, loves making the audience think and exposing
them to the work of daring playwrights. She has directed plays at Stage
Left, Red Orchid and Chicago Dramatists.
"If you could describe this play in two sentences or less, it would
just be 90 minutes on stage," Filmer relates. "I'm more interested
in plays where you're not dumping things on the audience. Instead, you're
opening a window, and letting things creep in slowly."
The play has very little to do with the title, and that also intrigued
"Originally, Susan Hahn set out to write something scathing about
golf," Filmer explains. "Then she went out with a friend, who
took her to a golf course, and she became totally fascinated with golf,
and how the rules in golf have a lot to do with respect."
In the play, Hahn, who is also a poet, uses the game of golf as a metaphor
for war. In a dress shop overlooking a golf course, Chanel's lover Capel,
contrasts golf -- and its civility -- with the horrors of war. The play
moves back and forth in time from the characters' lives to events in history.
There is no linear story line, and Filmer found that fascinating as well.
"Because Susan Hahn is a poet, that brings an interesting tone to
this play," Filmer says. "I feel Hahn has the ability to tackle
large thematic statements in subtle ways. Her poems, like this play, tend
to lean towards the darker side, with an odd sense of humor. This is a
beautiful, tragic play."
Filmer admits it's not easy directing a drama that deals with historical
figures and complex themes. Most of the play is written in subtext, and
because it's a brand new script, there are no clear-cut stage directions
The cast features Mierka Girten as Coco Chanel, Cat Dean as Eva, Gene
Cordon as Hitler and Josh Odor as Arthur Capel.
"It's very collaborative because we're creating a new world together,"
Filmer says. "You don't have reference points because there isn't
a Broadway play or movie. You have to make sure everyone is on the same
Filmer is encouraging her actors to dive right in.
"Because it's all very subtextual, you don't necessarily get inside
the heads of the characters," Filmer comments. "One of the challenges
in this play is the delivery. Because it's not naturalistic, you don't
want the dialogue to sound stilted."
She is giving her actors a lot of room to explore their fascinating characters.
"I always tell actors to go far -- break out," Filmer reveals.
"If they start from a place of truth, they never have to worry about
going too far. We are lucky to have a pool of actors who get it. That's
just the personality of the Chicago actor. It's nice to able to work with
actors who enjoy the freedom of bringing their own unique energies to
In this play, the women are the catalysts for Hahn's provocative exploration
of power and history. Coco enjoys her independence and resists committing
to one man. Eva is a hopeless romantic, even if her taste in men is rather
Instead of explaining Eva's attraction to the sadistic Fuehrer, Filmer
says this play merely raises questions about the choices Eva, or any woman
in denial, might make. "Was Eva truly clueless," Filmer ponders,
"or did she pretend not to know what was going on because it was
too painful? Look at how the Nazi party took over. People were in denial."
Filmer feels this script transcends time because it raises such monumental
"This play raises the question: how do people leave their mark; how
will they be remembered in history?" Filmer remarks. "It's a
good piece to do right now because war, occupation, power struggles and
denial, are a part of our world right now.
"The audience will be drawn to each of these characters because of
each one's charisma," Filmer emphasizes. "It's my job to open
up the audience to the world of this play. You really don't know what's
going to happen until you get the play on its feet in front of an audience.
I really hope people leave the theater seeing a tale of survival. The
message of this play is to keep living, no matter what horrors have happened,
and to finish the game with grace."
"Golf" begins preview performances Friday and makes its world
premiere next Wednesday (through March 13) at Circle Theatre, 7300 W.
Madison St., Forest Park. Tickets are $22; $20 seniors and students; previews,
$11. Call (708) 771-0700.