Through a career that spanned more than four decades, Brian Dennehy’s towering presence, genial humanity and emotional explosiveness made him one of the most iconic actors of our era.
Although his work on television and film brought him international success, he was most at home in the theater—and it was in the theater that his incredible artistry was most palpable. He appeared on stages in Dublin and London, on Broadway, at Lincoln Center and the Stratford Festival—and, most memorably, at Goodman Theatre, where he became my most valued artistic collaborator, my muse and my close friend.
Brian’s interpretations of the great tragic figures of 20th century drama—Hickey in The Iceman Cometh, Brecht’s Galileo, James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, and a host of other—won him critical acclaim, a raft of awards and recognition as one of the finest stage actors of his generation.
Brian was uniquely equipped to explore these characters; he shared with each of them a seductive bravura laced with brusque impatience, a grandeur leavened by self-deprecating awareness, a monumental passion fed by steely intelligence and unfiltered honesty. But it was his moments of stillness that I found most affecting—moments of discovery and self-reflection, of simple wonder or of vanished illusion—which he revealed his soul to us in all of his confusion and fear and wit and doubt and human-ness.
Brian loved Chicago and loved the Goodman, and shared that love with his collaborators, his coworkers and his audiences. His loss is immeasurable, but his legacy immense—and that legacy will shine on in our memories.
Goodman Theatre Artistic Director