Fish Men

Fish Men
Invite

April 7 – May 6, 2012 In the Owen
Approximate running time: 2 hours and 22 minutes with one intermission

  • Powerfully moving”— Time Out Chicago
  • stars — Time Out Chicago
  • Arguably the most thrilling duel not requiring a fight choreographer in the history of Chicago theater” — Windy City Times

Goodman Theatre Presents The Teatro Vista Production of Fish Men

With biting humor and unexpected pathos, Fish Men focuses on a group of unforgettable characters, drawn together by a shared need to overcome their individual demons.

On a hot summer day in Washington Square Park, New York, a group of chess hustlers engage in spirited matches played out in real-time, hoping to lure unsuspecting players into a high-stakes hustle. Their patience is soon rewarded with the appearance of Rey Reyes, a young professional who naively agrees to their challenge. But as the game progresses, the circumstances that stoke the fire of each player’s obsession with the game are revealed, laying bare their inner demons and devastations.

  • Fish Men
    An interview with Director Edward Torres

  • Fish Men
    An interview with Playwright Cándido Tirado

  • Fish Men Audiences are Hooked
    Listen to what audiences have to say after seeing Fish Men.

  • Fish Men In Performance
    Here are some scenes from the hustle in Fish Men.

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  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Director Edward Torres observes the story of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men unfold in rehearsal.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Playwright Cándido Tirado plays a game of chess with cast member Raúl Castillo (Rey Reyes) during a rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Raúl Castillo (Rey Reyes) takes a moment to think during a rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Playwright Cándido Tirado watches a chess match between actors (left to right) Mike Cherry (John) and Raúl Castillo (Rey Reyes) during a rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    (Right) Director Edward Torres gives notes during a rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Howard Witt (Adam Kirchbaum) stares offstage during a rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Kenn E. Head (PeeWee) leans back during a recent rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Ricardo Gutierrez (Jerome) vents his anger during a rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    Cedric Mays (Cash) during rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Rehearsal Photos
    (Left to right) Director Edward Torres gives instruction to Ricardo Gutierrez (Jerome) during a rehearsal of Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre's Fish Men.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (Right) Rey Reyes (Raúl Castillo) ends his turn in a match against chess hustler Cash (Cedric Mays) while fellow hustler John (Mike Cherry) watches in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (Center) Stuart (Daniel Cantor) expresses his disgust of chess hustling to Cash (Cedric Mays) while Dr. Lee (Gordon Chow) observes in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    Chess hustlers Cash (Cedric Mays) and John (Mike Cherry) welcome the park's newest target 'fish' Rey Reyes (Raúl Castillo) in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (L to R) Dr. Lee (Gordon Chow) and Stuart (Daniel Cantor) glare at the park's chess hustlers in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (L to R) Chess hustlers John (Mike Cherry) and PeeWee (Kenn Head) watch a chess match from afar in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (L to R) Chess hustlers John (Mike Cherry), Cash (Cedric Mays), and PeeWee (Kenn Head) discuss chess strategy in Teatro Vista’s Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (Center) Jerome (Ricardo Gutierrez) bestows his chess wisdom upon Rey Reyes (Raúl Castillo) while (L to R) John (Mike Cherry) and Cash (Cedric Mays) size him up in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (L to R) Cash (Cedric Mays) and Rey Reyes (Raúl Castillo) project their moves in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    In a duel to the end, (left to right) Rey Reyes (Raúl Castillo) competes against chess hustler Cash (Cedric Mays) while John (Mike Cherry) and Dr. Lee (Gordon Chow) observe in Teatro Vista’s Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

  • Fish Men Production Photos
    (Center) Cash (Cedric Mays) and Rey Reyes (Raúl Castillo) face off in front of avid chess hustlers in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre.

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For Love or Money: The World of Chess Hustling

By Steve Scott, from OnStage Magazine, March 2012

They can be found in any of New York’s public parks or gathered in chess shops throughout the city. Their names evoke the legendary status that some of them achieve: Broadway Bobby, Russian Paul, Sweet Pea, Poe. Their ranks have included future Hollywood greats, day laborers, students, international champions and homeless knockabouts. Although the trade that they ply is technically illegal, they are largely ignored by legal authorities—and their unique brand of fame has been chronicled by newspapers, blog sites and at least one feature film.

Welcome to the world of chess hustlers, players who compete at the board game for money, a fixture of New York street life that has been referred to as the “largest growth industry” in the city. Chess hustlers have plied their trade in Manhattan’s parks for decades; according to local lore, actor Humphrey Bogart made his living as a master of speed chess during the Depression, as did future Unites States chess champion Arnold Denker. Film director Stanley Kubrick (whose passion for the game made its way into such movies as 2001: A Space Odyssey) was a frequent—and victorious—habitué of Washington Square Park’s chess boards in the early 1960s. But the popularity of street chess is generally acknowledged to have started with a former convict named Bobby Hayward, who in the late 1960s or early 1970s set up shop on a garbage can on Eighth Avenue, between 42nd and 43rd Streets. Word soon spread, and Hayward’s enterprise was immortalized by photographs in The New York Times. Such mainstream attention brought visibility (and perhaps legitimacy) to Hayward and his fellow hustlers, and soon street chess was a sought-after activity for both chess wizards and New York tourists.

The form of the game preferred by most hustlers is known variously as speed chess, blitz chess, or lightning, in which each side has five minutes (or three, in a variation known as bullet chess) to complete all their moves. There are two ways to play speed chess: touchmove (meaning that if a player touches a piece, he has to move it) or the more common clock-move (meaning that a move is not complete until a player punches the clock). Veteran speed chess players can keep several games going at once, keeping track of the tally as they go. This can be an effective method of bilking more money out of the neophyte player by causing him to lose track of the number of games that have actually been won, or to lose track of the amount of the wager made on each game. There are other tricks that the hustler can use to fix the outcome of a game: rigging the clock so that the opponent’s time runs out faster than the hustler’s or, when a hustler’s luck runs out, fleeing the game via an unannounced break. In his 2000 book The Virtue of Prosperity, author Dinesh D’Souza describes one such game in which his opponent, a storied street chess champion, was unexpectedly down after fifteen minutes. “I’ll be right back,” the opponent said, heading for the men’s room in a hotel across from the park. A few minutes later, an observer pointed out the obvious to D’Souza: the hustler wasn’t coming back, and D’Souza wasn’t getting his five-buck winnings. Although such shenanigans are eschewed by many bona fide chess hustlers, the competition among hustlers is fierce, and the stakes may be higher than the monetary bet at hand. As the character Flash in Cándido Tirado’s Fish Men says, “We’re not happy with just winning. We want to obliterate the opposition.”

  • Apr 11 2012
    <i>Fish Men</i> in the Round  

    Fish Men in the Round

    Fish Men, Teatro Vista

    Cándido Tirado’s new play Fish Men began preview performances last weekend, and when audiences arrived for the world premiere production in the Owen they entered into a rare setting for the Goodman: a theater configured stadium-style, with the stage planted in the center of the auditorium and seats built up around it on all four sides.

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  • May 01 2012
    Backstage with Fish Men’s Howard Witt  

    Backstage with Fish Men’s Howard Witt

    Backstage, Fish Men, Howard Witt, Teatro Vista

    For each Goodman production we’ll feature one “Backstage”—an informal Q & A designed to help us better know a cast member. Check back often to learn more about your favorite Goodman actors!  For Fish Men we talked with Howard Witt.

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  • Apr 27 2012
    Playing the Part of a Survivor: Raúl Castillo  

    Playing the Part of a Survivor: Raúl Castillo

    chess, Fish Men, Raúl Castillo, Teatro Vista, war

    Cándido Tirado’s new play Fish Men, now playing in the Owen, is a fast-paced firecracker of a play that takes place on a sweltering afternoon in Washington Square Park, where a quick-witted group of chess hustlers play spirited matches hoping to make a profit off of unsuspecting “fish.” It’s a funny, sharp, exciting piece of theater, but it’s also a play that’s unafraid to tackle a dark and complex subject matter, as it’s quickly revealed that its central character, Rey Reyes, is a survivor of the Guatemalan civil war.

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  • Apr 24 2012
    Choreographed Chess  

    Choreographed Chess

    chess, Fish Men, Teatro Vista

    Cándido Tirado’s Fish Men, now playing in the Owen Theatre, chronicles an afternoon in Washington Square Park with a group of chess hustlers who play a series of lightning-fast games designed to confuse and swindle any “fish” foolish enough to take them up on a match. But as audiences observe the speedy matches they may not know that the actors on stage aren’t just randomly moving pieces around as quickly as possible—they’re playing actual moves of actual games that they’ve memorized just like their lines and their blocking.

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"Fish Men | Theater Review"Windy City Times | 4/25/12

"Actor enjoys challenge of the con at Goodman"Highland Park News | 4/24/12

"Fish Men at Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre | Theater review"Time Out Chicago | 4/16/12

"Behind the scenes of Fish Men at the Goodman"Time Out Chicago | 4/9/12

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