Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Her Naked Skin”

Shattered Globe Theatre, now celebrating 20 seasons of theater in Chicago, since its inception, has always tried to bring works to its stage that are a little bit different from other companies; intimate character driven stories that speak to the universal aspect of what it means to be a part of the “Human Experience”. Their current production, under the direction of Roger Smart ( one of the original members of this company) is one that does just that. “Her Naked Skin” written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who was inspired by the novel “Shoulder to Shoulder” by Midge Mackenzie in documenting the lives and work of Britian’s leading suffragettes during the early 1900’s in England.

While much of this story is based on some actual history, letters, articles, speeches and memoirs of the women involved, as always, writers add their own touches and personal experiences that may be related, in fact, or hearsay to the actual events, which in many cases are more stimulating than the actual stories. This is a story about the problem of equal rights for women, one that has existed for eons and while things are far better in modern times, we still hear of the “equal job-equal pay” strikes and picketing today!. I must tell you that I was impressed by the set designed by Andrew Hildner to make the best use of the “THE BOX” theater at Stage 773. The majority of the set is the prison where the women were placed and abused when they demonstrated. The levels and doors and even the stairways made for a very realistic prison. Yet, with a curtain and a few pieces of furniture, voila, we are a gentlemen’s club, or a senate hearing room, with the action outweighing the set at all times. Hats off to Vivian Knouse for assembling a lot of props that were the icing on the cake for bringing reality to the stage. The music before the play and during several scene changes adds to the mystery of where the story is headed and with no program note, I will have to give credit to the sound man Christopher Kriz.

Charles Jolls lighting worked to perfection and Lindsay Schmelling’s costumes were of great and fitting design, but limited in numbers ( it seems that even the women of prosperity had only one outfit that was worn every day for weeks and weeks. I guess I should be less picky, but it was very noticeable with our principle , Celia Cane ( deftly handled by the strong Linda Reiter). Her husband, William, who has turned to drink to offset his missing wife is played to perfection by Tim Newell and Celia’s love interest, Eve is handled by the lovely Sheila O’Connor.

The ensemble works hard to make this play really work and while there are many fine moments, I for one found that two and a half hours was far to long to tell this lovely little love story. This is a small theater and so, noticing several “sleepers” or dozers causes others to lose concentration and focus on a historical story about “freedom”. Not just the freedom to vote or the freedom to work, but the freedom to make choices- choices of your won. Freedom to have a love interest that is not what society wants or expects you to have, so while I liked the concept, I would have found it a bit more intriguing to get to the heart of the matter and to bring these characters lives to completeness in the end. This is a story that offers history and some intrigue about the people of the time- those shackled by their lives, both on the inside and outside.

“Her Naked Skin” will continue at Stage 773 ( formerly The Theatre Building)located at 1225 West Belmont, through June 3rd, with performances as follows:                                                      

Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. ,Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $18-34 and are available at the box office, by phone at 773-327-5252 or online at either www.stage773.com or www.shatteredglobe.org

The theater is easy to get to using public transportation and parking is fairly easy to find ( on street, some metered, some not) and if you care to dine before or grab just a drink ( pre or post), there is free parking at Cooper’s ( across the street ( the brisket and pulled pork are memorable dishes and they have some of the best fries I have ever tasted). There is also valet parking at the door.

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