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Following the lives of Charlotte and Jonny, The Mystery of Love and Sex cleverly explores a variety of subjects including sexual identity, race, political correctness and family undercurrents. Charlotte and Jonny have grown up together and have become the very best of friends. Charlotte is a white girl who had lived with her parents, her father Jewish and her mother converted, while Jonny, an African American had lived with his mother just next door. 

The story starts off with Charlotte and Jonny living together while attending college. They wonder if their longtime friendship can develop into something more. The two are stressed when Charlotte’s parents, Howard and Lucinda, come by for dinner unsure of what they might think of their living relationship and their possible future together. Howard, a  successful crime novelist accused of writing with racist and sexist overtones by Jonny ("Why are all black men able to dance? Why are most found victims women with no clothes on?"), is direct, concerned and, at times, a bit skeptical. “What is this? Like Bohemian?” He says referring to the couple’s table setting. It doesn’t help matters that Charlotte and Jonny are serving just salad and bread. But we quickly see how much Howard cares for both his daughter Charlotte and Jonny, who he considers his son, despite his oft coarse exterior. 

As the story progresses, Charlotte and Jonny show trepidation in pursuing a future together even questioning their own sexuality. Howard and Lucinda, who consider themselves liberal parents, just want their daughter to be happy. We are then taken on several plot twists and turns in both Howard and Lucinda’s marriage and the lives of Jonny and Charlotte that keep the story highly engaging.

Keenly directed by Marti Lyons and smartly written by Bathsheba Doran, The Mystery of Love and Sex provides four main characters that are each appealing in their own ways. The interactions between the four is fulfilling, as it is humorous, touching and true to life. Doran’s story is that of love, whether it be unconditional or the lengths taken to find it. It is a journey into life’s most sought after desire and a tribute to accepting those for who they are.  

"I have had the pleasure of following the impressive rising careers of playwright Bash Doran and Director Marti Lyons for the past few years and I am delighted to find a project that suited both their considerable talents so perfectly," says Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.

Hayley Burgess leads the way as Charlotte with a bold performance in her Writers Theatre debut. Charlotte has many layers that are revealed throughout the play and Burgess gently takes the audience by the hand into her character’s depth one step at a time. Best friend and confidant Jonny is well-played by Travis Turner who is also able to play up to the complexities in his role with much aplomb. Lia Mortensen is just fantastic as Lucinda, delivering her witty lines to perfection and getting several laughs in the way her character struggles to quit smoking. Cast in the role of Howard is Keith Kupferer. However, Kupferer had taken ill and was unavailable for the performance I had attended thrusting Mark David Kaplan into the role, who is simply remarkable. Kaplan steers his role with grit and finesse offering the clear predictability of Howard’s stereotype, but is also able to throw in a handful of surprising moments filled with a genuineness than can catch us off guard. Kaplan and Mortensen are terrific as Charlotte’s parents, bringing forth plenty of funny exchanges and throwing several well-timed darts at each other.

There is a lot to like in Doran’s The Mystery of Love and Sex from its tantalizing script to its well-executed performances. The play delivers a solid message in a uniquely crafty way that is entertaining from beginning to end. 

Recommended. 

The Mystery of Love and Sex is currently running at Writers Theatre (325 Tudor Court, Glenview) through July 2nd. For tickets and/or more show information click here

*This play contains frontal nudity.

Published in Theatre in Review

We first meet Clea as she traipses into the great room of a sky-high Manhattan penthouse, enraptured by the “surreal” view. Looking on disdainfully are Charlie (Mark Montgomery), an actor who has been struggling to get cast lately, and his wing-man Lewis (La Shawn Banks).

In the world of theater, a gushing ingénue making a breathless entrance is something that has been seen before, to put it mildly. Charlie for one is not impressed. 

In short order, though, we sense there may be more to this young woman, and these men, than first appears. As it happens, the party is in the home of an actor-writer on the rise, and his older, wealthy patron. Charlie is there hoping to rub shoulders with him, and maybe get a role in his new production.

Clea (Deanna Myers blazes in the role) is on a similar mission – though at this point in her career she is less certain about how things will play out. She is also a font of inanity – “Food is, like, disgusting to me,” she avers, claiming never to eat. “Most things people put in their mouths, it is totally just like eating death. Someone proved that eating is killing people." 

Charlie and Lewis are agape at Clea. Charlie clearly finds her exaggerated pronouncements aversive, while Lewis nods and puts on about the phoniest show of interest imaginable - miming that attraction men sometimes feel despite (or perhaps because of) knowing better.  

Poured into snug-fitting couture and clearly master of her heels, Clea reads, accurately, the mocking tone in Charlie’s desultory conversation. When he asks her how the view can be “surreal,” sparks begin to fly in what turns out to be a harbinger of later romance.   

This is also the first inkling we have that Clea is more femme fatale than ingénue.  She vacillates from helpless to heated. In due course, she reveals a grab-bag of information about herself, and observations on life in general. Her mother is an alcoholic, so she doesn’t drink. People are just not "awake" to life.  

She has recently arrived from Ohio hoping to make her break in New York. She eventually asks for that vodka – just this one time – and becomes even more voluble. Clea reveals she has applied for a position on a television production team – and does a send-up of the woman who interviewed her, describing a “Nazi priestess” of talent bookings, by the name of Stella. As it turns out, Stella is Charlie’s wife - and fatefully, the unrequited love of Lewis.

Clea came there intent on making an impression. And oh she does in Meyers’s super-charged performance. In later scenes, after she has vanquished Lewis, she moves on to seduce Charlie, ultimately triggering his downfall by overstaying a tryst - so the two get caught by Stella.

Charlie eventually ends up on the street, having cast aside his stable life with Stella. (The story line draws on Waugh's of Human Bondage, according to playwright Therese Rebeck.)

The couple was about to adopt a child. Perhaps the prospect of parenthood was too great a strain on Charlie. Fear of parenthood is a classic romance killer, but under Kimberly Seniors direction we are witness to Charlie's action, but not his motivation. Stella also is a bit of a caricature, slipping into Spanish when her blood gets boiling.  Lewis, meanwhile, has played this marriage's third wheel from the opening scene, defending Stella against critiques. The trio has a reasonable chemistry in scenes, but Stella seems overplayed, and Lewis underplayed when they are alone together. 

As to Clea: Viper? Seductress? Ingénue? Trollop? Those old-fashioned words don’t quite apply, as Clea owns her sexuality, and is aware of where she is heading. She seems at once incisive, and empty-headed.

“How can you know so much and so little at the same time?” as Charlie asks.

Waugh’s classic, Of Human Bondage, was filmed three times. And The Scene was also made into a movie - Seducing Charlie Barker. 

In The Scene, the eventual affair with Clea leads to Charlie’s downfall, and his wife Stella’s departure, among other things. While the performance by Myers is captivating, and the chemistry between Stella (Charin Alvarez), Lewis and Charlie is convincing, I struggled to find empathy with anyone other than Clea – a rather villainous protagonist.

The glass and steel set is striking, and works really well through all the scenes. The furnishings were dead on, very Blue Dot Catalog. Likewise the costumes, down to the men's shoes.  Brian Sidney Bembridge did sets;  Nan Zabriskie costume; Sarah Hughey, lighting; Richard Woodbury, original music and sound design; and Scott Dickens handled props. 

Running through April 2 at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois, The Scene comes recommended, especially to see Deanna Myers.

Published in Theatre in Review
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 19:13

Writers Theatre Announces 2017-18 Season

Writers Theatre Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma announce the company’s 2017-2018 six-show season, opening with the World Premiere of Trevor the musical in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre. The production will be directed by Marc Bruni (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway), with book and lyrics by Dan Collins, music by Julianne Wick Davis, music direction by Alexander Rovang and choreography by Josh Prince, by special arrangement with U Rock Theatricals. The season will continue with Oscar Wilde’s clever comedy of manners The Importance of Being Earnest directed by Michael Halberstam; Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece A Moon for the Misbegotten directed by William Brown; and Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, directed by Kimberly Senior in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre, with a production yet to be announced opening the season in the Gillian Theatre, followed by the Chicago Premiere of Lydia Diamond’s Smart People, directed by Hallie Gordon.

 

The 2017-2018 Season marks Writers Theatre’s second full season in the company’s award-winning new home at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe, designed by Studio Gang Architects. Productions will be presented in two spaces in the theater complex including the 255-seat Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre as well as the Gillian Theatre, a 50 to 99-seat flexible theatre space.

 

From its very first year, Writers Theatre has brought quality and excellence to the stage while maintaining the company’s hallmark intimacy. The last 25 years have seen unprecedented growth in both the artistic and business arenas as the company has garnered national acclaim and recognition, marked by the celebrated opening of the Theatre’s new facility in February of 2016. With a longstanding reputation for consistent artistic excellence and with strong ties to the community, Writers Theatre has built an award-winning repertoire and serves as a vital and highly regarded company in the Chicagoland theatre community.

 

“This is a particularly ambitious season for us,” says Artistic Director Michael Halberstam. “We are starting to really stretch things in our new home! We are particularly delighted to be in collaboration with such a wonderful array of directors, actors and playwrights. Of particular note, this season marks our first collaboration with a team of New York producers in presenting a powerful world premiere musical, which will launch what is a classic Writers Theatre season. We have our trademark mix of classic revivals and new plays presented with fresh perspective in our two intimate venues. When we set about to build a new home, we wanted to create a theatre that would allow us to continue to pursue our mission, but with much greater sophistication.  This season takes advantage of our new facility by honoring our past while very much looking forward to our future. Stand by for additional news to come! There is one more exhilarating production still to announce!”

 

Season Packages are available at the Box Office, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, 847-242-6000 and www.writerstheatre.org.

 

Writers Theatre is pleased to welcome back BMO Harris Bank as the distinguished 2017/18 Season Sponsor, marking the Bank’s seventh consecutive year as season sponsor.

 

 

The Writers Theatre 2017-2018 Season includes:

 

World Premiere

TREVOR THE MUSICAL

Book and Lyrics by Dan Collins

Music by Julianne Wick Davis

Based on the Academy Award-winning film Trevor

Choreography by Josh Prince

Music Direction by Alexander Rovang

Directed by Marc Bruni

August 9 – September 17, 2017

Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre | 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

 

Meet Trevor, a 13-year-old boy in 1981 whose vibrant imagination drives a turbulent journey of self-discovery. As he deals with adolescence and all that goes with it, Trevor begins to explore what it means to be himself, influenced by his friends, parents . . . and Diana Ross. 

 

Based on the story that inspired the Oscar-winning film, the charity and the national movement, TREVOR the musical is a coming-of-age story about identity, emerging sexuality and the struggles of growing up in a world that may not be ready for you.  This world premiere musical is directed by Marc Bruni, who helmed the Tony Award-winning production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway.

 

The Trevor Project was created as a result of the Academy Award-winning film that also inspired TREVOR the musical. The Trevor Project is the nation’s only accredited crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization focused on saving young LGBTQ lives. www.TheTrevorProject.org 

 

 

TO BE ANNOUNCED

September 27 – December 17, 2017

The Gillian Theatre | 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

 

We’re still finalizing details for the first production in the Gillian Theatre next season, and aren’t quite ready to make the project public yet. However, we can tell you that it fits the Writers Theatre style—intimate, engaging and full of captivating performances by top-flight talent.

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

Written by Oscar Wilde

Directed by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam

November 8 – December 23, 2017

Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre | 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

 

One of the cleverest comedies by one of the greatest writers in the English language, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST introduces us to Jack and Algernon, two charming bachelors who are each living a double life, aided by a fictional alter ego called “Ernest.” But when they fall truly in love with a pair of proper young women, will they be able to bring an end to the charade and convince the formidable Lady Bracknell that they are suitable candidates for marriage? After all, “the one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.”

 

Artistic Director Michael Halberstam brings his talent for refreshing the classics to this effervescent comedy of manners. Filled with Wilde’s sparkling wit, piercing social satire and trademark wordplay, this well-loved classic is certain to delight this holiday season!

 

 

A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN

Written by Eugene O’Neill

Directed by William Brown

February 7 – March 18, 2018

Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre | 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

 

In 1920s rural Connecticut, Phil Hogan cobbles together a living on rented farmland that he hopes to someday own outright, when his landlord Jim Tyrone comes into his inheritance. Hogan has driven away his three sons, but his towering daughter Josie understands her father and can hold her own. When the two learn that the land may be sold out from under them, they concoct a plan to save it that ultimately reveals the secret desires that two lonely souls have kept hidden for years.

 

This bittersweet elegy from four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Nobel laureateEugene O’Neill offers a moving and powerful exploration of humanity at its basest and most beautiful.  Directed by WT Resident Director William Brown (Company, Doubt: A Parable, The Liar, A Little Night Music and many more), this soaring powerhouse of a play is simultaneously intimate and epic, touching on themes of desire, family and the things we sacrifice for those we love.

 

 

SMART PEOPLE

Written by Lydia Diamond

Directed by Hallie Gordon

March 21 – June 10, 2018

The Gillian Theatre | 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

 

Four intelligent, attractive and opinionated young urban professionals—a doctor, an actress, a psychologist, and a neurobiologist studying the human brain’s response to race—search for love, success, and identity while also attempting to navigate the intricacies of racial and sexual politics. This whip-smart new play taps into current cultural conversation in an enthralling and provocative way, taking on deep questions of the nature of prejudice with razor sharp wit.

 

Staged in our intimate Gillian Theatre, this sexy, serious and fiercely funny new play explores the inescapable nature of racism and other tricky topics with rapid fire dialogue, shattering assumptions about our culture’s ingrained attitudes of racism, sexism and classism. You’re sure to be captivated by one of the smartest new plays of its time!

 

 

 

BURIED CHILD

Written by Sam Shephard

Directed by Kimberly Senior

May 9 – June 17, 2018 

Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre | 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

 

On a cross-country trip from New York to the west coast, Vince and his girlfriend Shelly decide to make a stop at his grandparents’ rural Illinois home. But when they arrive, neither his grandparents, Dodge and Halie, nor his father Tilden and uncle Bradley seem to recognize or remember him. As Vince searches for answers, truths begin to emerge that reveal a deep corrosion of this fragmented family living in a forgotten America.

 

This Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece will be newly invigorated for the WT stage by Resident Director Kimberly Senior (Hedda Gabler, The Diary Of Anne Frank, Marjorie Prime, The Scene), drawing audiences deeply into the story of a family fighting to come to grips with an America that may have left them behind.

 

 

SEASON PACKAGES

Writers Theatre season ticket packages provide a convenient theater going experience and guarantee access to all of WT’s highly anticipated productions throughout the season. Six-play subscription packages are available, ranging in price from $249 to $389.

 

Three-play “Pick Your Own” Flex packages that include two productions in the Nichols Theatre and one production in the Gillian Theatre start at $199.

 

Season package subscribers receive exclusive benefits including complimentary ticket exchanges by phone and mail (upgrade fees may apply), a one-year subscription to The Brief Chronicle newsmagazine and more. For a complete list of benefits visit writerstheatre.org.

 

Season Packages are available at the Box Office, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, 847-242-6000 and writerstheatre.org.

 

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES:

For additional information about the WT Audience Enrichment programs listed below, visit writerstheatre.org/events.

 

Pre-Show Conversation: Up Close

Join us at 6:45pm before every Thursday evening performance (excluding previews and extension dates) of Trevor the musical, The Importance of Being Earnest, A Moon for the Misbegotten and Buried Child for a 15-minute primer on the context and content of the play facilitated by a member of the WT Artistic Team.

 

Post Show Conversation: The Word

Join us after every Tuesday evening performance (excluding previews and extension dates) for a 15-minute discussion of the play, facilitated by a member of the WT Artistic Team.

 

Post Show Conversation: The Artist

Join us after every Wednesday evening performance (excluding previews and extension dates) for a 15-minute talk-back featuring actors from the production, facilitated by a member of the WT Artistic Team.

 

Sunday Spotlight

This one-hour event extends the conversation on our stages by featuring an expert in a field related to the themes or setting of each play, moderated by a member of the WT Artistic Team. Seating is limited. RSVP is required.

 

The Making of… Series

Writers Theatre will once again host its popular The Making of… Series, providing insight into a different aspect of creating the productions seen on our stages. This one-hour event will feature WT Literary Manager Bobby Kennedy in conversation with an artist associated with each production, discussing their part in bringing the play to life. The Making of… events are FREE and open to the public. Seating is limited. RSVP is required.

 

From Page to Stage Series

Writers Theatre and select North Shore libraries present the 13th annual From Page to Stage Series. This comprehensive series of special events, lectures, readings and film viewings are designed to enhance and enrich the audience experience of WT productions each season.  All events are FREE of charge and open to the public. For more information about the From Page to Stage Series, visit writerstheatre.org/from-page-to-stage-series. From Page to Stage is generously sponsored by Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin, who have been supporting the program since its inception 13 years ago.

 

Writers Theatre also offers Access Performances, including ASL-interpretation and Open Captioning on select dates for each production.  Please visit writerstheatre.org/accessibility for more information.

 

 

ABOUT WRITERS THEATRE

For more than 25 years, Writers Theatre has captivated Chicagoland audiences with inventive interpretations of classic work, a bold approach to contemporary theatre and a dedication to creating the most intimate theatrical experience possible.

 

Under the artistic leadership of Michael Halberstam and the executive leadership of Kathryn M. Lipuma, Writers Theatre has grown to become a major Chicagoland cultural destination with a national reputation for excellence, being called the top regional theatre in the nation by The Wall Street Journal. The company, which plays to a sold-out and discerning audience of more than 60,000 patrons each season, has garnered critical praise for the consistent high quality and intimacy of its artistry—providing the finest interpretations of both classic and contemporary theatre in its two intensely intimate venues. 

 

In February 2016, Writers Theatre opened a new, state-of-the-art facility. This established the company's first permanent home—a new theatre center in downtown Glencoe, designed by the award-winning, internationally renowned Studio Gang Architects, led by Founder and Design Principal Jeanne Gang, FAIA, in collaboration with Theatre Consultant Auerbach Pollock Friedlander. The new facility, which was recently recognized with LEED Gold Certification for sustainability initiatives, has allowed the Theatre to continue to grow to accommodate its audience, while maintaining its trademark intimacy, resonating with and complementing the Theatre’s neighboring Glencoe community, adding tremendous value to Chicagoland and helping to establish the North Shore as a premier cultural destination.

 

Find Writers Theatre on Facebook at Facebook.com/WritersTheatre or follow @WritersTheatre on Twitter. For more information, visit www.writerstheatre.org.

 

Published in Buzz Extra
Sunday, 30 October 2016 22:04

East Texas Hot Links: A Hearty Meal

In an interview in the program, playwright Eugene Lee says that East Texas Hot Links is like a combination of an August Wilson play and the Twilight Zone. But fantasy was a common feature of Wilson’s plays. The new production of Lee’s 1991 play at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, which is slated to run through January, is more like watching Wilson’s Two Trains Running transform into John Carpenter’s Halloween. Under the direction of Chicago theatre treasure Ron OJ Parson, who directed the same play in 1995 and a revival in 1998, a cast of eight delves into the horror lurking just below the surface normalcy of African-American life in Jim Crow Texas. It’s not just the specter of physical violence which haunts these characters, it’s also the psychological effect of living in a society built on terrorizing them.

In 1955 in the rural vicinity of Houston, Charlesetta Simpkins (Tyla Abercrombie) runs a bar she inherited from her father. She has a strict policy of only serving drink and prepackaged food—the men who are her regulars delight in razzing her and each other, and if she cooked better than their wives, they’d likely never leave, but ridicule her all the same. Hanging around as usual is the soft-hearted local landlord, Columbus (Alfred H. Wilson), his brooding much younger brother-in-law, XL (Namir Smallwood), and XL’s boisterous frenemy, Roy Moore (Kelvin Roston, Jr.), who also has a crush on Charlesetta. The big news is that the local plutocrat, Prescott Ebert, is building a highway to Dallas. Columbus has been screwed by the use of eminent domain, but XL has worked for Ebert as a middle manager several times, and he sneeringly declares that he’ll hold out for another foreman job instead of wasting himself on manual labor.

This attitude does not exactly make him popular, particularly as Prescott Ebert is, by reputation, a Klan leader and a serial killer of black people. XL dismisses this as irrelevant; he’s always been paid on time, and that’s what matters. In fact, he’s hooked up Delmus Green (Luce Metrius), a kid with big dreams, with Ebert for some secret work that will be done late tonight. That explains why Delmus is hanging around, attempting to reach Ebert by phone. He’s unsuccessful for the moment, and the other patrons’ conversation meanders over a wide range of subjects. However, those conversations have a way of taking a strange turn due to the presence of Adolph (Willie B.), an elderly blind man whom the others call “Professor” due to his half semester of college education and ability to improvise free-verse. Having taught himself the vampiric psychological and sociological theories that were all the rage in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Adolph links everything to parasitism, death, decay, and consumption in both senses of the word. He’s more fun to have around than you might think.

Rounding out the cast are Buckshot (Antoine Pierre Whitfield), a man who claims to have been much-improved since he was sent to prison for trying to kill a man who called him “Titty-baby,” and Uncle Boochie (A.C. Smith), a mystical gambler who can foretell death. When they all put their heads together they come to the conclusion that there is something extremely wrong with whatever it is XL has offered Delmus to Ebert for. All the actors are fascinating, and Lee’s dense script provides all of them with memorable dialogue, but Smallwood’s XL stands out for the intensity of his greed and fear, and the effort he puts into his compartmentalization. Though deeply loathsome, the character is impossible to look away from. The world these characters inhabit, with scenic design by Jack Magaw, costumes by Christine Pascual, and lights by Kathy A. Perkins, feels full, yet isolated, and a great deal of credit for that has to go to sound designer Joshua Horvath. The sound of animals and wind in the surrounding woods is vaguely unsettling, and reinforces how much of a refuge this building is, as well as its vulnerability. Long before the characters realize their immediate danger, we know there’s something evil out there.

Adolph proclaims that we feed on those who hate us. But in the food chain of east Texas, it’s all too clear to the African-American characters how far down they are. Even literal eating is something that has become psychologically poisonous—Roy defensively announces at one point that he only eats the front feet of a pig. Lee has said that he sees the play as hopeful because of the context that it takes place just a few months before the Civil Rights movement revived, and because the characters unite in an effort to save Delmus. Upon reflection, that’s true, but the hair-raising ending, along with the expertly crafted rising tension which proceeded it, are more likely to dominate the audience’s reaction immediately after viewing than the more implicit themes of awakening to collective action and survival. It is nice, though, that, upon digestion, the audience finds something nourishing in East Texas Hot Links other than human misery. Adolph says we feed on those who love us, as well.

 

 

East Texas Hot Links will play in The Gillian Theatre at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through January 22, 2017. Running time is ninety minutes with no intermission. Parking is available, and the theatre is within walking distance of the Metra. Audience members who post a Facebook or Twitter photos of themselves with the tags @WritersTheatre and #EastTexasHotLinks will receive $5 cash if ticket was bought in advance. Tickets are $35-80. Showtimes are Tuesdays-Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm, with some exceptions. To order, call 847-242-6000 or visit writerstheatre.org. The actors eat peanuts onstage during this show.

Published in Theatre in Review
Friday, 24 June 2016 16:22

Review: Company at Writers Theatre

Imagine a 70s-era Woody Allen movie set to music. That's basically "Company" by Stephen Sondheim. It premiered in a time when many Broadway musicals were just collections of songs loosely connected by a simple plot. In 1970, Sondheim's "Company" challenged that formula by presenting a musical that was more book than music. The story is even less clear than a classic Broadway show. It's the story of Bobby, a bachelor living in New York City with mixed-up ideas about marriage. 

 

Though Bobby (Thom Miller) is the main character, "Company" is about the women in his life. Writers Theatre director William Brown has assembled a stellar cast of Chicago actresses. Each scene is a vignette in which Bobby learns about his friends' marriages. Blair Robertson as uptight Jenny is charmingly neurotic. Tiffany Scott playing urban Southern bell, Susan, and with costumes by Rachel Anne Healy, looks like a young Cybil Shepard. With distinct performances from the female ensemble, it's hard to pick out a favorite scene from the show, however Allison Hendrix singing "Getting Married Today" is a highlight. For Sondheim groupies, this is one of the show's most popular numbers but also its most challenging with a unique staccato rhyming scheme. Hendrix pulls it off, and makes the comedy relatable. Jess Godwin as April, is the show's last stop. Her portrayal of an awkward bachelorette is sure to make everyone laugh. 

 

"Company" concludes on the bittersweet song "Being Alive" and while Thom Miller's performance as Bobby is a little uneven throughout, he brings a lot to the cathartic final number. In one song, the musical goes from odd-ball romantic comedy to a philosophical question about the nature of long term love.

 

Writers Theatre in Glencoe is rightfully proud of their new space designed by Jeanne Gang. "Company" is presented as part of their Inaugural Season. The show, like the space is sleek, stylish and sexy. William Brown's production will likely be remembered as a definitive presentation of this not-often produced Sondheim classic. With more space, it’s nice to see a show at Writers with some breathing room. 

 

Through July 31st at Writers Theatre. 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. 847-242-6011.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

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