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Robocop channels Frank Lloyd Wright





Peter Weller to star as Frank Lloyd Wright, with Harris Yulin as Louis Sullivan, in Frank's Home, a new play by Richard Nelson, directed by Robert Falls, that has its premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in December.

 -by Lynn Becker








Peter Weller, the actor whose film work ranges from Robocop to David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, will play Frank Lloyd Wright in the Goodman Theatre production of Frank's Home, which begins previews on Frank's Home at Goodman Theatre
November 25th, with a run from December 5th through the 23rd.

The play is written by Richard Nelson, whose musical adaptation of James Joyce's short story, The Dead, was an intimate Broadway triumph in 1999, and it's being directed by the legendary Robert Falls, fresh from his recent staging of King Lear with Stacy Keach.

The play takes place at a turning point in Wright's life, in the late summer of 1923, at as the architect has moved from Chicago to California to work on a Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel Tokyocommission for a Beverly Hills home for Aline Barnsdall, whose iconic Hollyhock house was completed two years before. On September 1st, the great Tokyo earthquake left in question the fate of Wright's Imperial Hotel. "I am greatly agitated over the news from Tokyo," Sullivan is writing his friend on September 3rd. "The calamity is terrible to think of."

The relationship between Wright and Sullivan, which, after a long estrangement that followed Sullivan's firing of his young protege for taking on outside commissions on the sly, ending in what was probably the most enduringly affectionate relationship in Wright's long life. In Frank's Home, Sullivan is to be played by veteran character actor Harris Yulin, last seen here in Goodman's production of Arthur Miller's last completed play, Finishing the Picture, in 2004.

Wright provided Sullivan with support, both moral and monetary, during the elder architect's long, sad, final decline. "Your letter, mailed at sea, reached me this Frank Lloyd Wright: Letters to Architectsmorning," Sullivan wrote to Wright at the Imperial Hotel, then under construction. "To find a cheque in it positively paralyzed me, for I was at the very end of my string." The correspondence is reprinted in Frank Lloyd Wright, Letters to Architects, edited by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer.

That past June, Sullivan had been evicted from his offices in the Auditorium Building. "My stuff went to warehouse yesterday," Sullivan wrote, "and I turned over my office key." By August of 1921, Sullivan's desperation had only increased: "I have just cabled you as follows: 'Am in trouble. What can yo do in the shortest time.'" Two years later, it was "If you have any money to spare, now is the urgent time to let me have some."

By the time we get to 1923, the year of Frank's Home, Wright is writing Sullivan from Los Angeles, "No word from you and I am wondering if you are perhaps ill. The weather here is remarkably fine . . . " In August, Wright was consoling Sullivan over the death of "your little companion" a mystery woman who visited Sullivan in his spare, shabby lodgings at the Warner Hotel. In September, Sullivan was congratulating Wright on the survival of the Imperial Hotel through the devasting earthquake.

The following April, Wright made a final visit to the fast fading Sullivan, who had just published his glorious, Whitmanesque The Autobiography of an Idea. Three Louis Sullivan Wirt Dexter Buildingdays later, Louis Sullivan died. At 57, Wright's career, in a way, was just beginning. At 67, Sullivan's had largely ended decades before. All but forgotten, the world had little use for him. And in his native city of Chicago, with two irreplacable Sullivan landmarks carelessly and needlessly destroyed just this year, it doesn't seem much has changed.



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© Copyright 2006 images and text Lynn Becker All rights reserved.

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