Mokena native in ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’
By Betty Mohr firstname.lastname@example.org June 6, 2012 3:28PM
Theatre Seven of Chicago's "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" features Ryan Lanning (from left), Mokena native Ryan Hallahan, Tracey Kaplan and Elizabeth Hope Williams. | Amanda Clifford photo
BY A BEAR’
◆ Previews to June 10, regular run from June 14-July 15 with showtimes of 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays
◆ Greenhouse Theater Center,
2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
◆ Tickets, $20-$22 in advance, $30 at door, $15 for students and $18 for seniors and industry members
◆ (773) 404-7336; theatreseven.org
◆ Theatre Seven of Chicago
presents this show.
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:04AM
He’s not like the character he plays in “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.”
But Ryan Hallahan, who grew up in Mokena, can connect with the deep-seated motivation behind the actions of the guy whose shoes he has to fill on stage.
“In the show I play the husband, Kyle, who has been physically abusive to his wife, and now she’s getting back at him,” Hallahan said.
The play presented by Theatre Seven of Chicago is in preview performances at the Greenhouse Theater Center in Chicago and has an official opening planned for June 11.
Hallahan, 25, said “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” is an absurdist comedy with farcical elements that make it very funny and fast-moving.
The play, in its Chicago debut, takes place in northern Georgia in a cottage deep in the woods.
The story centers on a failing marriage in which the wife has tied her husband down and has surrounded him with venison in order to invite bears to eat him.
While she’s furious about the way he has treated her and retracing the pain of their relationship, he is trying to save himself and win her over.
“Kyle, the husband, is somebody who was a hero in high school. He was the captain of the football team, and now, 10 years later, he doesn’t know where to go,” Hallahan said.
“He’s filled with self-doubt, has lost his self-esteem and has taken it out on his wife.
“He’s not the man he used to be although he can still be a charming, funny guy who can be sweet and endearing. At the same time, he’s capable of being cruel and nasty.”
Hallahan said the contradictory aspect of human nature is true of everyone.
There’s a constant internal fight going on in most people between being the person they really are and the person they think they are.
To portray Kyle as a full-dimensional and honest character, Hallahan said he had to understand what makes Kyle behave as he does.
The young actor had to search within his own life to find a common bond between himself and the person he plays.
“I recognize things about him that I can identify with,” Hallahan said. “The part of him that I can really understand is his frustration.
“Lots of people get frustrated with where they are and where they want to be, which I think is Kyle’s big problem.”
Hallahan said he can understand that because it happened to him.
He said he was in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” a few seasons ago at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe, and thought he would have momentum to propel his acting career forward after that show.
But nothing happened. He wasn’t able to capitalize on his performance and went into a dry period for eight months.
“I couldn’t land another part in theater and I couldn’t find a day job to support myself,” Hallahan said.
“I felt like both worlds were closing in on me. It was a dark time for me. I was depressed and scared.”
Things eventually turned around when Hallahan was chosen to play the lead character in “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” and when he got a part for the upcoming Tom Stoppard classic “The Real Thing” at Writers’ Theatre.
Soon after that, he also landed a good day job.
“While things were tough and I couldn’t seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel, I kept reminding myself that you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week or next month,” Hallahan said.
“I realized that you have to grit your teeth, put on your helmet and charge into the fray to get things done.
“I persevered and wouldn’t give up, and when the part of Kyle came along for ‘Exit,’ everything brightened up.”
Betty Mohr is a local freelance writer.