Dead Writers Theatre Collective is committed to a focus on plays that relate to great writers- either by or about dead writers! Now that you know their “mission”, I will tell you about their current production,”Tea with Edie and Fitz”, written by the very much alive Adam Pasen. The story chronicles a meeting between Edith Wharton ( well portrayed by the always reliable Patti Roeder) and F. Scott Fitzgerald ( deftly handled by Madison Niederhauser). The atory is devised in a manner that can be somewhat confusing as we go back in time and forward in time, depending on which story version is being told. We also have the use of video’s on a screen just left of the stage ( from the audience viewpoint) and there are times that the actors “re-wind” on stage. Gimmicks are wonderful, but I do not believe that as much as this production shows us is needed.
The story is about two great icons of literature and the ups and downs in their careers and what “might” have taken place at the meeting ( for tea) that supposedly caused them to never speak or have contact again. This is not a documentary- there are no actual accounts for us to view and even with the mighty Google, I am not sure we can find answers into the two characters depicted in Pasen’s play. It takes place in the “roaring 20’s” the time of the flapper In this production, directed by Jim Schneider on a very cleverly designed set by Edward Matthew Walter, one that spins around from area to area and keeps the flow of action on a strong continuation from scene to scene, we also learn more about Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda ( the adorable Nora Lise Ulrey) who , a sit turns out had some mental issues. We also learn about Ms. Wharton’s husband, or at this juncture, ex-husband. Teddy ( Peter Esposito) also institutionalized for mental problems.
While this is not a factual show ( until the end when they tell us how it all ended for the characters), I am sure that some of what is in the story is in fact true. There are some excellent performances in the production and as I said the set is wonderful, the lighting by Linda Bugielski is clever as well,Elizabeth Wislar’s costumes are dynamic and the sound and original music by Jeffrey Levin add a great deal to the telling of the story. The projections by Mark Nadolski are solid , but there are a few spots where we get what appears to be a stop in the “tape” ( I realize that this is for affect”, but didn’t think it worked). In a period piece such as this, the props person plays an important part and I tip my hat to Angela Guest for a job well done!
This is a “world Premiere” of a work in progress, so I am sure that after this run at the Greenhouse Theater Complex, Pasen and his people will look at what they can do to sharpen this experience for the next audiences. Some of the smaller character roles in a production such as this are “key” to keeping the flow of action. Nelson Rodriguez, Michael D. Graham ( as the ghost of Author Henry James), and Megan DeLay as a receptionist to Charles Scribner ( Bill Chamberain) publisher for both Fitzgerald and Wharton.
While these iconic authors were different in temperament, style, lifestyle and talent, they had many similarities in their personal lives. The experience of seeing a story such as this is one that will bring you enjoyment only because of the sterling performances. Just pay close attention to the shifting of the time periods so you won’t get confused and are able to stay with the story- remember, his story goes backward and hers forward. If you can do this, you should be able to keep up with the events.
“Tea” will continue at The Greenhouse Theater Complex located at 2257 N Lincoln Avenue through June 9th with performances as follows:
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Running time is approx 2 hours 30 minutes with an intermission
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Tea with Edie and Fitz”