Stuart Levine made millions of dollars. Hung out with the political elite. Corrupted the system, abused drugs and threw wild parties. And before ending up in prison, he helped convict some of the biggest political names in Illinois.
His life resembled a Greek tragedy in his rise and fall and quest for redemption, according to the play, “I Wish To Apologize To the People of Illinois.”
Levine’s life comes alive on stage starting Friday night and running through December 8th at Collobraction’s Pentagon Theatre.
The debauched parties that Stuart Levine threw at the old Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood are a part of the play, marking the symbolic downfall of a man who went from millionaire to pauper.
Writing began in the summer of 2012.
“I was just flabbergasted how somebody could be worth $70 million,” said Andrew Gallant, “and then end up selling electronic cigarettes at a mall.”
Gallant and Tim Touhy are co-writers and directors of the play about the man who used his position on the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board to gain political access, arrange kickbacks and reap the temporary rewards of corruption before being caught and turning federal mole. His cooperation helped send prominent fundraiser Tony Rezko and political insider William Cellini to prison.
Actor Patrick Burch portrays Stuart Levine.
“I think I portray him as a human being,” Burch said, “a man of excesses and demons.” Levine, he said is stripped away of his family and friends until, “he’s left by himself and his conscience.”
Levine’s cooperation also helped the government build its case against former governor Rod Blagojevich.
While the 2009 play “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” was all about camp, this play is about the soul of a man and the heart of a city.
“This play is not about the bad stuff people do,” said actor James Munson who portrays former alderman Edward Vrdolyak, one of Levine’s closest friends.
It’s about, he says, what happens next.
“What are the consequences of that and what are the moral dilemmas that people face when they’re really caught,” said Munson, a lawyer and high school football coach in Evanston.
Levine’s undercover work for the government included secretly taping Vrdolyak, evidence that helped send the former 10th ward alderman to prison.
Levine, 67, pled guilty to a massive corruption scheme and was sentenced in 2012 to 5-and-a-half years behind bars. He is currently in federal prison in Duluth, Minnesota with a release date of August 6, 2017.
Levine is the anti-hero of the play, whose fall from grace is softened by his cooperation with the government.
“To say he is just a villain or to say he is just a bad guy, it’s far too simplistic,” said Gallant.
“People do bad things and we go on and we move forward,” said Tim Touhy. “We absolutely believe in redemption,” he said. “We don’t let anyone off the hook. This is what they did,” Touhy said, adding, “there’s more gray area in politics and life than there is black and white.”
Much of the play is drawn from court testimony, proving in Chicago politics, truth trumps fiction.