“Chicago Fire” stars are used to having their work seen by millions on the small screen. Sunday evening, they performed for a much smaller crowd — roughly 200 people at iO Chicago’s Mission Theater.
Veteran stage actor Chris Stolte, who plays Mouch on the NBC drama, rounded up seven other cast members along with “Chicago P.D.’s” Marina Squerciati to do a staged reading of Chicago playwright Jason Wells’ latest creation, a political comedy called “The Engine of Our Ruin.”
“Did I hesitate to do this?” David Eigenberg said after the performance. “Hell yeah. Who wants to work on their day off?”
It didn’t take much arm-twisting once the Naperville native found out the $50 tickets were a fundraiser for the 100 Club of Chicago as well as the fledgling Mission Theatre, co-run by improv legend David Pasquesi, who also took part in the event. (Pasquesi got the evening off to a jovial start when he introduced cast members like Taylor Kinney as “that guy from that Skechers commercial” and Charlie Barnett as Will Smith.)
Set in the Middle East, the play takes place in a swanky hotel suite where what was supposed to be a straightforward diplomatic mission between the United States and an Islamic nation gets a lot more complicated, thanks largely to a translator (Monica Raymund) with her own agenda.
Eigenberg and Stolte hilariously butted heads while representing Team USA, while Eamonn Walker and Yuri Sardarov played off each other well as power-hungry egomaniacs from a country that won’t be winning a N.O.W. award anytime soon.
Kara Killmer, Charlie Barnett, Taylor Kinney and Squerciati also generated a lot of laughs — especially the latter, who stole her scenes as Jessica, an extremely buzzed business traveler more interested in partying than international peace.
“We’re all theater people, we all come from that background,” said Barnett (“Fire” paramedic Peter Mills). The Juilliard grad grew up in Florida performing on stage. “Any opportunity we have to get back into it — to work that muscle — I’ll take it.”
In the audience was Stolte’s on-screen love interest and “Plouch” partner, Steppenwolf Theatre mainstay Amy Morton (Sgt. Trudy Platt on “P.D.”), as well as “Fire’s” Randy Flagler (Capp) and Joe Minoso (Cruz).
Lookinglass Theatre Company co-founder and “Friends” star David Schwimmer also dropped by to check it out, along with buddy Billy Dec.
Most of the cast stuck around after the performance, milling around the iO bar, posing for pictures with fans and signing autographs.
Wells, a Rogers Park playwright and actor, put on the staged reading to spot kinks in the script and see what does or doesn’t land with the audience. It’s a common practice for playwrights, although the actors they get to read the lines rarely have hit TV shows.
“I could see right away that I was in great hands with these guys,” said Wells, a St. Louis native who goes way back with Stolte. “They’re all doing TV now but they’re feeding their soul with this kind of thing. They were really into it. It was the best first reading that a writer could possibly have.”