Tuesday October 17th 2017

“The Audience”

Timeline Theatre Company remains a gem in the “Chicagoland Theater Community”. Known for presenting theater that is inspired by history, connecting those periods with the social and political issues of today, each production entertains and educates its audience. The current production is unique in that the title is “The Audience”, the Chicago premiere of Peter Morgan’s  imagined story of Queen Elizabeth II’s weekly meetings with her Prime Ministers through decades of history and political strife, bringing to life some very notable characters (based on the actual figures of history ). As always, in the outer lobby, many of the touched upon items that are in the subject matter are shown ( or perhaps, in this case, alleged to).

Timeline, as a venue is somewhat unique in the ability to re-configure the audience area and stage for each production. In this case, the designer ( Jeffrey Kmiec) has been asked to close up the auditorium to place the cast “in the round”, allowing us, the actual audience, to view the play “The Audience” as if we were the proverbial “fly -on- the- wall”. Under the clever direction of Nick Bowling, this two-hour-fifteen minute (11 scenes) with one intermission, never seems to drag, despite the dialogue, at times, feeling a bit “wordy” for most people. Being in the round, it was very noticable that many audience members either had very long days, or lost the grasp of the story early on.

I can tell you that the cast is superb! The acting is all Jeff-Award “worthy” for sure. In the role of Queen Elizabeth II, the amazing Janet Ulrich Brooks, who I adore in everything she does, but in this play, even more so! Equerry, our Narrator perse and the Queen’s “right hand” is played to perfection by David Lively and the other two men in this cast take on all the other male roles. Mark Ulrich handles John Major, Gordon Brown, Anthony Eden, David Cameron and a Scotland Yard Detective. The costume and wig changes were quick and powerful. Katie Cordts does the wigs and Theresa Ham, the costumes- these are decades of styles, both clothing and hair.

Even more remarkable as he takes on a multitude of characters is Matt DeCaro as Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, Tony Blair and the Archbishop- WOW! It is almost as if he were waiting for this role in order to grace the stage at Timeline. Now that he has, perhaps he will not be a stranger.

The other cast members are the delightful Carmen Roman as Bobo MacDonald, a Secretary, a Security Guard and a wonderful characterization of Margaret Thatcher, and Audrey Edwards as Young Elizabeth ( alternating with Sophie Ackerman). At the start, there was some confusion as to where the little girl fits in, but we soon see it is a memory of bygone years that we are visiting.

As the story tells us, for more than 60 years, the Queen met with her Prime Ministers in a “private” audience as a good-will gesture between government and the Crown. In the imaginary words of Morgan, perhaps what we saw as the results in history, may have come to pass for reasons that only a playwright with a somewhat “warped” mind could have imagined. After all, Morgan is the same man who brought us  “Frost/Nixon” (a big hit at Timeline years ago) and the current NETFLIX series “The Crown” inspired by this play. You can imagine how this opens up a window of mystery into the humor of the Royal Queen.

The design, the cast, the direction, the lighting ( Julie Mack), the sound (Andrew Hansen, who also did the original music and the properties ( Amy Peter) all played into making this a strong production. I even loved the touch of music at the very end of the production from ABBA- “Dancing Queen” for the bows. I imagine that this is not a play for all audiences, despite its beauty and splendor. It is “talky” and not for people who lack concentration. If one listens, one can learn a great deal and there are many laughing moments indicating just how humor is a great healer, even during periods of war.

“The Audience” will continue thru November 12th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m.

Single tickets range from $40 thru $54 and are available at  773-281-8463  ext. 6 or online at www.timelinetheatre.com

Students, 25% discounts

Military personnel, veterans, first responders (as well as spouses and families)  $25 per ticket

The theater is located at 615 West Wellington Street (just West of Broadway) so public transportation is quite easy (Clark Street/22 and Broadway #36, are very convenient. Parking is available at the lots in the Century Mall and at The Broadway Center with theater validation. Also, if you dine at The Bagel, let them know about your car and they will allow you to park in their lot until after the performance. By the way, the chicken soup is “to die for” as is the brisket!

The Timeline Theatre is accessible and on their schedule they have the following special events:

9/16 captioned performance at 4 p.m.

Post -show discussions: 8/30, 9/7, 9/10, 9/28, 10/8 and 10/11  informal after the show discussion

Pre-show discussions -one hour before 9/17 and 9/20  30 minutes in total

Sunday Scholars one hour post-show on 10/1

need more information, visit www.timelinetheatre.com

 

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Audience”.

 

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