Citadel Theatre, that almost “invisible” gem on the North Shore, is emerging as a destination theater. While they are spreading their wings and have added musicals to their season, their current production, “Educating Rita” written by Willy Russell is just what the doctor ordered for this intimate space in Lake Forest. The close to the stage seating that allows every audience member to look into the eyes of the actors (even from the last row) makes people plays ideal for this venue. Yes, they pulled off “Oliver” (much to the surprise of all) and I am sure they will find a solid way of bringing “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” (their next musical) to life, but the perfection they bring to the small “English” comedy is delightful to watch.
Director Mark E. Lococo working on a well designed office (Eric Luchen) takes his two actors through doors and costume changes as the time marches on. This is a story about a young hairstylist, Rita (the charming and very sexy Jess Thigpen) who is searching for change and growth in her life. It is her desire to go back to school and better herself- sort of rise above her “class”. The man who is designated to take on this challenge is Frank (deftly handled by Si Osborne) a well read professor who has his own problems . Frank takes on this extra work to assist him with paying off his bar tabs around town. One will note that in his office, he has bottles divided by books and mention of these alcohol beverages in same. This is very much like a “Pygmalion”/”My Fair Lady” in that these two opposites end up have a strong effect on each other and during the two and a half hours (with a 15 minute intermission) and lots of scenes, we see each transform to what looks like the perfect couple. Rita’s transformation is more visible than that of Frank. We see it in her spirit, her costumes, her accessories and her physical mannerisms. Frank changes, but in much more subtle ways. You be the judge!
While I know that the story was written for an English audience to begin with, but find that this same story could easily take place in the Midwest or New York or even the deep South, but that would also use accents. I would love to see one of the “English Comedies” be transformed into a “comedy” with no origin, allowing us to hear every word and understand the direction the characters are heading. Maybe someday this will happen. By the way, the rating for the acting in this show is. Both Osborne and Thigpen are strong and one could see the chemistry taking place between their characters.
The technical aspects were as always at Citadel, solid! David Lundholm’s costumes were very “of the period”, Bob Boxer made certain that the actors are heard and the musical interludes were wonderful.
“Educating Rita” will continue at Citadel Theatre located at 300 South Waukegan Road in Lake Forest (just south of Route 60) through March 13th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 1 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are $25 ( a theater bargain) and can be purchased by calling 847-735-8554 or online at www.CitadelTheatre.org
There are also discounts for Seniors and students.
Lots of free parking
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Educating Rita”.