Recommended *** Dead Writers Theatre Collective is a new ensemble/company that prides itself on presenting theater with premier production values, and they do so in an intimate space with the highest regard for bringing quality to every ingredient of their recipe for a pure theatrical experience for their audience. The current production on the stage at Stage 773 on Belmont is Jane Austen’s “Emma” as adapted for the stage by Michael Bloom and finely directed by Jim Schneider.
The story of “Emma” is one of a young lady who is precocious, to say the least, very self-centered, spoiled and extremely sure of herself. In this role, Heather Chrisler is divine and wins the hearts of the audience members from her very firs aside to them. She is sure that she will never marry so that she can keep her pledge to her father ( deftly played by Jerry Bloom) and becomes a “matchmaker” of sorts, making it her mission in life. Of greatest importance for her is to find a match for her dear friend, Harriet (Hilary Sigale) who is of a much lesser class and social standing.
As the story progresses, Emma becomes entangles in the lives of those who surround hers and finds her own attitude towards matrimony change. Even during the turmoil surrounding her, the intrigue of others falling in love, develops into her finding her own true love as well, at frist disappointing her father, who relies on her for everything, but as clever as she is and her soon to be husband is, they do find a way to satisfy the needs of all concerned and after two and a half hours of romancing, intrigues, music and dance, we get a happy ending.
“Emma” was written back in the early 1800’s and many consider this to be Austen’s greatest work. This slick production by a new company shows that the love of a story and script put into the right hands can bring a novel to the stage making it appeal to both male and female audience members. Austen’s novels are what many term as “chick books”, but in this case, the story unfolds easily and even men will be able to follow it. The set, an intricate piece of work by Moon Jung Kim, with walls that move on and off changing the set from exterior to interior is unique and the costumes (Patti Roeder) and hair and wigs( Sarah Jo White) add to the overall beauty of the production ( do I hear a Jeff?)). The music and sound Jeffrey Levin and the choreography ( Mady Newfield and Tammy Ravitts Bretscher are divine and certainly added to the total picture that was presented. There were a few technical problems, but none that the actors had to worry about and even when the lighting board appeared to go out, the actors never broke character.
The only problem that I see in the production ( lowering the stars) is that the English language, as done by English people doesn’t have to be as high-pitched as it is and they need to slow down a bit on delivery. The words of the script are important and key to the story being told, so the audience needs to hear them all. Fine work by Kevn Sheehan, Brad Davidson, Lorelei Sturm, Ben Muller, Nick Bonges, Sara Minton, Megan Delay, Brandon Johnson, Maeghan Looney and Joyce Saxon .- and servants: Jerico Bleu,Kamron Palmer, William Czerwoinka and Andrea Young.
“Emma” will continue at Stage 773 located at 1225 West Belmont Avenue through May 25th with performances as follows:
Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Seating is General admission ( not reserved) but there are really no bad seats in this theater. Tickets are only $40 ( $25 for seniors and students) and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 773-327-5252 or online at www.deadwriters.net
There is valet parking available as well as street parking in the area ( some metered, some not) and of course if you dine at Cooper’s, they have free parking in the lot in the rear.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Emma”!