Drama inspired by Sept. 11 attacks to play at Elgin Art Showcase

  • Justin Schaller and Shannon Mayhall will be featured in "The Mercy Seat," a drama written by Neil LaBute in response to the 9/11 attacks, which will be performed Sept. 20-22 at the Elgin Art Showcase.

    Justin Schaller and Shannon Mayhall will be featured in "The Mercy Seat," a drama written by Neil LaBute in response to the 9/11 attacks, which will be performed Sept. 20-22 at the Elgin Art Showcase. Courtesy of Beacon Productions

Submitted by Beacon Productions
Posted9/10/2019 6:00 AM

"The Mercy Seat," one of the first major theatrical responses to the 9/11 attacks, will be performed Sept. 20-22, at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., Elgin.

Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m.; the Sunday matinee starts at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door by cash or check: $18 for adults; $14 for seniors; and $12 for students. There will also be a pay-what-you-can preview at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19. For reservations, email laughline@juno.com or call (847) 697-4005.


Set on Sept. 12, 2001, the play concerns a man who worked at the World Trade Center but was away from the office during the attack -- with his mistress who is also his boss. Assuming that his family will believe he was killed in the towers' collapse, he contemplates using the tragedy to run away and start a new life with his lover.

The play's author, Neil LaBute, is an American playwright, director, screenwriter and actor. He is best known for "In the Company of Men," a play he wrote and adapted for film. He also wrote and directed the films "The Shape of Things," "The Wicker Man" and "Your Friends and Neighbors."

In "The Mercy Seat," LaBute shows two self-absorbed, flawed characters so realistic that audiences will both relate to and loathe them.

"I have written a play about two New Yorkers who face down one another and their own selves on a long, dark morning of the soul," LaBute said. "I hold the mirror up higher and try to examine how selfishness can still exist during a moment of national selflessness."

The play runs for about 100 minutes and will be performed without an intermission. One reviewer described this unsettling drama as "uncomfortable yet fascinating ... 'The Mercy Seat' makes for provocative theater -- sharp, compelling and more than a little chilling."

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The cast includes Elgin resident Justin Schaller and Shannon Mayhall under the direction of Elgin resident Richard Pahl. The three previously collaborated on Janus Theatre's "Spinning Into Butter."

Elgin audiences have seen Schaller in "How the Other Half Loves," "Deathtrap," "Other Desert Cities," "Visiting Mr. Green" and "The Glass Menagerie" for Independent Players and in "Art," "Twelfth Night" and "Circle Mirror Transformation" for Janus Theatre. Schaller also works with Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles, Gallery Theatre in West Chicago and Wheaton Drama.

Mayhall has played leading roles on local stages in "A Little Night Music" at Elgin Community College and in "On My Boyfriends' Bicycles" for Elgin's Cultural Arts Commission. Other notable performances include "Death of a Salesman" for Williams Street Repertory, "August: Osage County" at the Black Box Theatre at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, and "Making God Laugh" at Steel Beam.

Pahl has been staging plays and musicals in Elgin for 28 years. He recently directed "Over the River and Through the Woods" for Elgin Theatre Company. Other credits include "The Best Little Whorehouse" for Elgin Summer Theatre, "Hello, Dolly!" for Fox Valley Youth Theatre, and "Love, Loss and What I Wore," a benefit for the Community Crisis Center. He also worked with Encore Musical Theatre at ECC and Janus Theatre. He served two terms on the Cultural Arts Commission, produced its Page To Stage series and directed six of those play readings.

This play contains harsh language and frank discussion of sex and sexual politics and is intended for mature audiences only.


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