Chicago Theatre Review

Chicago Theatre Review

Tensions Run High in Strawdog’s Expertly Executed Fail/Safe

September 18, 2014 Reviews Comments Off on Tensions Run High in Strawdog’s Expertly Executed Fail/Safe

Fail/Safe – Strawdog Theatre Company

Based on the novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, Strawdog Theatre Company’s world premiere production of “Fail/Safe” is a tightly coiled, expertly performed bundle of nerves, a detailed recreation of Cold War-era attitudes/anxieties and a painful reminder of the prodigious powers that science has unleashed.

Following in meticulous detail a nuclear showdown between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, “Fail/Safe” plays like “Dr. Strangelove” without the humor – in short, a rogue bomber has, after mechanical failure on America’s side, embarked on a bombing mission towards Moscow, and the most powerful men in American government (including the president himself) do everything they can to stop both its bombing campaign and the breakout of nuclear war.

The staging and the casting are key to the success of “Fail/Safe.” Utilizing Strawdog’s small venue beautifully, scenic designer Mike Mroch divides the rectangular space into thirds, with each area focusing on a different operation in the U.S.’ nuclear apparatus – the nerve center of its computers; a conference room in the Pentagon; and finally, a bunker where the president retreats. And in each room, a sterling class of actors deliver the taut dialogue of Nikki Klix and Anderson Lawfer’s adaptation, with Mark Pracht, Carmine Grisolia, and especially Tom Hickey (who plays the president) delivering focused, intense performances.

The 2013 release of Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control was a stark reminder of just how close the U.S. has come to nuclear war, and with “Fail/Safe,” we’re granted a dramatic telling of just what a scenario would look like.

Highly Recommended


Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci

Presented Sept. 14 – Oct. 14 at Strawdog Theatre Company, 3829 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60613

Tickets are available by calling 773-528-9696 or by visiting

Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable




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