Ana Gasteyer as Fosca in Passion


Here at Chicago magazine headquarters, we’re divided about Passion, the Sondheim musical that’s playing upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre through Nov. 11.

Passion is one of the hot tickets for fall, partly because of its director (Gary Griffin) but mostly because of its star: Ana Gasteyer, the SNL alum. Gasteyer doesn’t live here, but one of her early ventures into musical theatre was opening Wicked for Broadway in Chicago. Now she’s back!

Before we get to the play itself, one thing we all agree on: When it comes to the costumes, poor Ana took one for the team. White face paint, kooky Pippi Longstocking braids, a mournful black gown that drags the floor . . . not even Gisele could get a phone number in this garb. It’s all for the sake of Gasteyer’s character, Fosca, a sad and drab young woman who spends much of the play trying to woo a Brad Pitt-like character from her sickbed.

What we don’t agree on: whether it’s worth the $30 or so ticket. Here’s what the people in the office say.

Richard Babcock, editor in chief (his thumb is up): “The characters drew me in. They were all deeply flawed, almost perverse, but they gave the story—basically simple and inevitable—a power that held my interest.”

Jennifer Wehunt, associate editor (thumb down for the production, thumb up for Gasteyer, which translates to a sideways thumb): Gasteyer must have had some green face paint left over from Wicked; how else could such a pretty actress look even worse as a woman than as a witch? But her fittingly gruesome mug is the only thing that’s ghastly about her performance here, which hits just the right chord of sympathy, tragedy, and humor—a standout in an otherwise dispassionate production.

Me (thumb down): The cast is great—Gasteyer’s performance is impressive, and she even manages to bring some humor to a dark role. But the play itself is flawed. Gasteyer’s character, Fosca, is kind of like Glenn Close in that movie where she stalks Michael Douglas and boils the pet rabbit in the pot. Why would anyone fall in love with that person?

That’s the word at Chicago magazine HQ. What did you think?

Photograph: Michael Brosilow