Of all the words that may come to mind upon viewing the work of Edward Hopper, whose iconic painting “Nighthawks” provides perhaps the quintessential image of bleakness in the American urban landscape, we’d wager that for most people inspiring is probably not one of the first. But clearly for the folks at WNEP Theater, Hopper’s oeuvre contains inspiration to spare: Within the melancholy tenor of his works, the company’s Write Club found an entire play just waiting to be written.
Playing now through Feb. 21 at the Chicago DCA Theater’s Storefront Theater, The (edward) Hopper Project is comprised of a series of 18 scenes and vignettes that collectively depict a Hopperesque autumn day in 1952 New York. For nearly two hours, audience members peer in on a Brooklyn block — complete with diner, movie theater, automat and more — and watch not only the scenes themselves unfold, but also constant street activity and miniature dramas unrelated to the principal action. It’s a production, says WNEP founding director Don Hall, who directs the show, that’s heavily imbued with the notion of voyeurism.
“If I could give everyone in the audience a leg cast and a pair of binoculars,” Hall says, “I would.”
As in life, the vignettes in the show generally don’t feature tidy conclusions, and though some of the characters share connections with each other, there’s no overarching narrative to follow. Rather, the show’s constituent pieces are united by their aesthetic. Characters, costumes and imagery are all designed to reflect Hopper’s work, though only once in the course of the show is a painting actually re-created.
Performances of The (edward) Hopper Project are staged Thursday through Sunday, and general-admission tickets run $20. If the show leaves you hungry for more (or you just can’t wait until Thursday), WNEP presents additional Hopper-inspired material as part of a show entitled Nighthawk Sandwich, which unlike T(e)HP actually features scenes based on Hopper’s most famous work (hence the title). Nighthawk Sandwich plays Wednesday evenings through Feb. 17 at the Storefront Theater. Tickets are $5. For both shows, visit the DCA Theater’s Web site for more information on performance times and discounts.