Aaron Snook as Brian Jones and Simone Roos as Anita Pallenberg in "Aftermath."photo: Johnny Knight
Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.
I see a lot of plays and I hate most of them. Not because I’m a curmudgeon, but because I’m a critic. Potato pot-tah-toh, you say? God, why would you say that? First of all, it’s outmoded, done to death, and second, you’re paid to fetch me scones and tepid Earl Grey. In a pinch, to get down on all fours so I can use your back as a desk, but never to speak.
Where was I? Ah yes, the theater. With a duty to celebrate the superior and eradicate the appalling, I’m like the King’s food taster: It’s my job to vomit and die so you don’t have to. (See my review of "Girls Vs Boys".) While I spend most of my time nauseated and mumbling about the apocalyptic state of live theater, occasionally, I unearth a show that reaffirms my faith in its transformative power.
Case in point, Chicago’s surprise sensation, "Aftermath," the deceptively straightforward story of Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones' troubled life and untimely death. Although "Aftermath"’s closing weekend is sold out, Signal Ensemble Theatre will remount the play November 6 in the company’s brand-new space in North Center. Meanwhile, sate yourself with this interview with "Aftermath" playwright and Signal Co-Artistic director Ronan Marra. But first fetch my humidor, and throw another log on the fire. I fear I’ve caught a chill.
What’s your reaction to "Aftermath"’s overwhelmingly positive press?
We're all just enjoying it. You never know when something's going to hit and you just roll with it when it does.
Did you write "Aftermath" with certain ensemble members in mind?
I had been researching Jones for a while, but didn't start drafting until after I had done several shows with Aaron (Snook) and felt he'd make a great Brian. Joe (Stearns), who plays Keith and shares artistic director duties with me, is a great guitarist and that would obviously be key, plus I knew Keith would bring most of the comedy, and Joe's a guy you want for that as well. Even if I didn't initially write a part for someone, I certainly started to during in-rehearsal rewrites.
What was it like to cast?
In regards to casting the Stones and George Harrison, it was an interesting mix of choosing actors who could play their characters' respective instruments and look at least somewhat like their characters. There was a balance there. I'd accept a little less mirror image for a little more musicianship.
What’s your favorite Rolling Stones tune?
Desert island, I'd probably have to say "Sympathy for the Devil." Or "Loving Cup." Or "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Or "Gimme Shelter." Ok, I guess I can't do it.
Would Aaron Snook marry me if I asked nicely?
Really? Even with that haircut? Honestly, his fiancée (Simone Roos, who plays Anita) might have something to say about that. And don't let their onstage antics fool you. They are a perfectly happy couple.