Neil Simon! Need I say more! When we see that name as the playwright, we know that we are in for a show that will make us think while enjoying a lot of laughter. Everyone loves “The Odd Couple”, probably the most famous of his works, but I for one enjoy watching his stories of his family as he grew up in the classic “Brighton Beach” trilogy as well as his “The Goodbye Girl” (the original, not the musical). One of his plays, one that is seldom presented in our area is his “Chapter Two” which depicts his real life courtship with his second wife, actress Marsha Mason. His persona, in this play is a novelist, who has recently become a widower, George Schneider (well played by Brian McCaskill). George was passionately in love with Barbara and feels that he can never have that again. His brother, Leo (deftly handled by Chicago favorite Peter DeFaria) a press agent keeps pushing women at him, mostly failures, in every way. Then, Leo gives George the phone number of a young, recently divorced soap opera actress, Jennie ( the adorable Amy Rubenstein), who despite a bad start ends up being the love of his life, and the reason that he can begin his new life in “Chapter Two”.
The last cast member in this four person play is Amy J. Carle as Faye, Jennie’s best friend, a married lady that has her own hang-up and adds some diversion to the deeper story of the widower and divorcee finding each other and being able to transform unhappiness to a second part of life. The name is so perfect. Many of us have been married and either lost the one we loved though divorce or death, placing us in a position of either existing/survival or going forward into a new chapter in life- “Chapter Two”. This production sharply directed by Jessica Thebus is well done with perfect timing. While Rubenstein is adorable and very energetic, I think she may have been a tad nervous for the opening. She is after all the Artistic Director of the new Windy City Playhouse, and this is after all, her first appearance on their stage. I am sure she will mellow as the run continues.
Those of you who have not attended this theatre should be aware of the comfort they offer. Leather individual seating that swivels are on the main seating area and the higher up seats are still more comfy then most venues with lots of leg room to boot. The set for this production (Scott Davis) is the two apartments of our main characters. Very slick and very realistic. The lighting (JR Lederle) and sound (Kevin O’Donnell) along with the props (Jamie Karas) and costumes (Melissa Torchi) add up to making this one smoothly done production. We have learned to expect great things from this new theater and they have not let us down. Keep it up!
What makes this production as strong a sit is, is of course the sharp direction of Simon’s tightly wound script and the four actors who truly show their love of the words that have been written. Simon is indeed a wordsmith who can bring a smile to our face with his comic genius, but at the same time, his story telling allows us to see the realistic feelings and emotions of a man who went through a lot. As a child during some very tough times in history and as an adult losing the love of his life. Luckily for Simon (and as it turns out for us) he met Marsh Mason and was able to bring us the well written and entertaining “Chapter Two” which will be on the stage at The Windy City Playhouse, located at 3014 West Irving Park Road through December 20th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 or 6 p.m. ( check www.windycityplayhouse.com/chapter-two for which dates)
Tickets range from $25 -$ 45 and can be purchased at the website, or by calling 773-891-8985
Street parking in the area is plentiful, some metered, some not.
The theater has a full bar and snacks. I would hope that along the way, they might add some actual edibles for before the show or to accompany the drinks (finger food items).
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, got to Review Round-Up and click at “Chapter Two”.