Season 34

The Body of an American

by Dan O’Brien
directed by Jason A. Fleece*

May 14 – June 19, 2016

Previews: 5/14 &5/17 @8pm; 5/15 @3pm
Opening: Wednesday, 5/18 @8pm
Regular Run:Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8pm; Sundays at 3pm               

Buy Tickets   

In 1993, Canadian photojournalist Paul Watson took a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. In 2007, writer Dan O’Brien was struggling to finish his play about ghosts. A chance encounter over the airwaves sparks an extraordinary friendship that sees the two men journey from some of the most dangerous places on earth to the depths of the human soul. Flying from Kabul to the Canadian Arctic, The Body of an American sees two actors play more than thirty roles in an exhilarating new form of documentary drama.

“a play that tightens its grip as it probes where war lives, and discovers we each carry it inside ourselves.” —The Guardian

“a fascinating mix of troubled and troubling biography and autobiography…holds you in a steely grip.”Time Out London

The Body of an American has received the 2014 Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play, the Inaugural 2013 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, the 2013 PEN Center USA Award for Drama and a nomination for the 2015 Evening Standard’s Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright. In 2016, it will see production at Hartford Stage and off-Broadway at Primary Stages before the Midwest premiere at Stage Left. 


Paul: Don Bender♦
Ryan Hallahan




Production Team:

Stage Manager: Tara Malpass*
Scenic and Projections Designer: Tony Churchill
Lighting Designer: John Kohn III*
Costume Designer: Brenda Winstead*
Sound Designer: Steven Gawrit
Technical Director
Andrew Hildner
Assistant Director: Brittany Gillespie^
Dramaturg: Annaliese McSweeney^
Graphic DesignSeam Studios
Photographer: Ian McLaren

*Ensemble Member    ♦Artistic Associate  ^Staff

The designation of “Jeff Recommended” is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the opening night judges of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.
Body 2 Body 3


New York Times feature
On the Media podcast

“Dan O’Brien’s ferociously honest, astonishingly vivid two-man play, ‘The Body of an American,’ now receiving its Midwest premiere in a breathtaking production… this multilayered, superbly written 95-minute play. Under the knife-sharp direction of Jason A. Fleece, two bravura actors – the aptly grizzled Don Bender (as Watson) and the fleet, handsome Ryan Hallahan (as O’Brien) – burn the stage with their intensity…The crazy male-bonding trip he shared with Watson – a hilarious adventure into the farthest reaches of the Arctic – may well have changed him. And it so thrillingly (and comically) enacted here that you can almost smell the dogsled huskies.”—Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“very smart play… a fast-moving and very polished affair… you’ll surely be impressed by the intelligence of the writing, and by the commitment of these two actors… Three Stars” —Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“See this play! Scrorching two-man drama. Go now!” —Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter)

“Stage Left Theatre gives this deceptive yet engrossing work a riveting Midwest debut… The Body of An American is one of those plays that could continue indefinitely, like a late-night conversation with a close friend. Energy never drops off—in fact, the final third seems to escalate if anything—but by the last words, an intimacy between the performers has solidified, and the audience should feel privileged to see it.” —Liz Baudler, Windy City Times

“surprisingly affecting… A seamless marriage of dialogue and imagery… two superb actors never hit a wrong note… Plays that take us where we never want to go, then make us glad we did, must be doing something right. This is all that.” —Lawrence Bommer, Stage and Cinema

“Both actors fill the stage with the necessary presence and range to play not only the lead characters but everyone from teenage Inuit girls to Afghan warlords. Under Jason A. Fleece’s direction, these talented actors smartly bounce off one another while slowly revealing the source of their mutual need to confess and be understood.” —Noel Schecter, New City Stage

“Watson’s life and his iconic photograph are explored in the highly original “The Body of an American,” which is receiving a sterling Midwest Premiere from the always provocative Stage Left Theatre. There are many things that I loved about “The Body of an American,” with Jason A. Fleece’s laser-precision direction earning particular accolades. What I most admired, though, was the play’s refusal to play it safe with its delicate subject matter. ” —Peter Thomas Ricci, Chicago Theatre Review

“we as an audience are kept spellbound as two actors portray a myriad of characters… Don Bender brings a rich and realistic feel to Watson and Ryan Hallahan is sheer perfection as playwright O’Brien.” —Alan Bresloff,  Around The Town