Tuesday May 30th 2017

” The Front Page”

Leave it to Timeline Theatre Company, a company that just keeps bringing us quality work, to bring “The Front Page”, a classic story that is very near and dear to Chicago’s history to their stage. This wonderful story written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, tells the story of a crowded pressroom in the 1920’s in Chicago on the eve of the hanging of Earl Williams ( Rob Fagin) who has shot a police officer. The execution is the premise for depicting many of the political antics of the “roaring twenties” as well as the way journalism worked- anything for the story and in particular a story that might make “The Front Page”! Directed by Nick Bowling, this is a true ensemble piece, a large cast with each player, no matter the size of the role, being of import in telling the story. The action takes place in the press room and set designer Collette Pollard has done a masterful job in  creating a large room filled with desks and tables that  looks as if we have taken a trip in a time machine.Timeline recreates its theater space with every production, this one being arena style with seating on all sides and no bad seats. The props designer(Julia Eberhardt) has procured some great antiques that  are quite authentic as are the costumes by Lindsey Pate. One can feel the history of this story from the very start, which by the way had a novel opening about turning off your phones.When will audiences learn that two hours without using a phone will not delay their lives? Sit back and enjoy the play!

In this case, you will have a wonderful experience. The play is 2 hours and 25 minutes in two glorious acts with a sterling cast of actors. Don Blair,Mike McNamara, Loren Lazerine,Michael Kingston, Larry Baldacci Mark Richard and Alex Goodrich are the reporters we meet in the opening scene followed by our main reporter, Hildy Johnson played to perfection by PJ Powers. There is a sort of fellowship between these men and their jobs. These are men who will do whatever it takes to scoop the others on a story that will get them the “front page story”. Hildy is one of the craftier reporters and as he comes into the press room, he advises the others that he is going to give it all up, get married and move to New York for a new career, but as the evening progresses, all hell breaks loose and  newshound that he is Hildy gets involved in “getting the story”.

Hecht and Macarthur take us on a ride through the corruption that exists in the Mayor’s office ( a fierce performance by Rob Riley) and the Sheriff ( a comic touch by Bill McGough) as they are days away from election and need to have this hanging to get the votes to remain in. It turns out, the Governor has reviewed the matter and has given Williams a repreive, but the politicos have kept this under their hats. Meanwhile Williams escapes and ends up in the  press room with none other than Hildy who brings his editor , Walter Burns ( another dynamic performance by Terry Hamilton, who can handle comedy with the best of them) and the chaos begins.  This is pure comedy with an underlying story of what life in Chicago was during this era in our history ( as seen through the eyes of Hecht and Macarthur, who were there) and the colorful characters who made up the story. The other actors in this solid production are Laurie Larson,John Gray,Malcolm Callan,Mechelle Moe ( as Mollie Malloy, a woman who gave her heart to Williams), Bridgette Pechman Clarno ( as the lovely Peggy, Hildy’s betrothed) and Angela Bullard as Peggy’s mother)and John Gray. There are many busy scenes with lots of scrambling and with a large cast this can be very awkward- Bowling makes it work!

If you are familiar with the work that Timeline puts on its stage, you know that you will get high quality, as always and if you have never visited their theater, why not? This would be a great start and will make you a regular. “The Front Page” will continue through June 12th with perofrmances as follows:

Wednesdays ( 5/25,6/1 and 6/8) 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from  $28-$38 and are available by calling the box office at 773-281-8463 or online at www.timelinetheatre.com

The theater is located at 615 West Wellington ( just west of Broadway) inside the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ Building and while there is some parking ( metered) in the area, parking is available at Broadway Center (2846 N. Broadway) or The Century Mall (2836 N. Clark Street) for $8 with validation. Public transportation is easy and I suggest this as the best way.

To learn more about Timeline visit www.timelinetheatre.com

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