By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Stage and screen (CBS’ Man with a Plan, Mike Hammer Series, Goodman Theatre’s King Lear) veteran Stacy Keach is Ernest Hemingway in “Pamplona” by Jim McGrath, directed by Robert Falls—now appearing in the Owen Theatre through August 19.
Originally scheduled for spring 2017, “Pamplona” appeared for 11 preview performances, but never opened: Goodman Theatre canceled the run after Keach suffered a mild heart attack and doctors ordered recuperation. “Pamplona” marks Keach’s second exploration of the literary legend: he earned a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of Hemingway in the eponymous 1988 television mini-series.
In “Pamplona,” after the prize comes the pressure. Basking in the glory of career-defining awards—the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954—legendary writer Ernest Hemingway insists his best work is yet to come. Five years later, holed up in a Spanish hotel with a looming deadline, he struggles to knock out a story about the rivalrous matadors of Pamplona. But his real battles lie outside the bullfighting arena; in declining health, consumed by his troubled fourth marriage and tormented by the specter of past glories, he must now conquer the deepening despair that threatens to engulf him.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) was born in Oak Park, IL, and got his start as a journalist writing for The Kansas City Star after attending Oak Park and River Forest High School. Shortly after, he joined the Red Cross during World War I, receiving the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery in 1918 for assisting soldiers, an experience that would inspire one of his most beloved works, A Farewell to Arms (1929). Following the war, he spent time in Paris, befriending the likes of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and published his first collection, Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923). Next came his first novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926), about a group of British and American expatriates traveling to Pamplona, Spain. Among his many other great works are the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea, For the Whom Bell Tolls (Pulitzer Prize nomination), Green Hills of Africa, Death in the Afternoon and To Have and Have Not. On assignment, Hemingway was also present for some of World War II’s most noted events, including the liberation of Paris, and received a Bronze Star for bravery for his coverage of the war. Hemingway was married four times, often tumultuously, to Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gelhorn and Mary Welsh Hemingway. He had three sons, Jack, Patrick and Gregory. Troubled by financial issues, familial burdens and alcohol abuse, Hemingway took his own life in Idaho in 1961.
The creative team includes Kevin Depinet (set), Noël Huntzinger (costumes), Jesse Klug (Lights), Michael Roth (composer and soundscape), Adam Flemming (Projections) and Lauren V. Hickman is the Production Stage Manager.
“Pamplona” appears through August 19 in the Owen Theatre. Tickets ($25-90, subject to change) are available at the Goodman Theatre, by phone, 312.443.3800, or in person at the Goodman Box Office (170 N. Dearborn St.).For information, visit https://www.goodmantheatre.org/pamplona