Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“The Letters”

Mystery! Intrigue! suspense!One Upmanship! These are some of the factors you will witness in John W. Lowell’s “The Letters” now on the intimate stage of Writers Theatre located in the back of  Books On Vernon shop in Glencoe. This is a two character play directed cleverly by Kimberly  Senior on a set designed by Jack Magaw that will have you feeling as if you are peeking into an office in Stalin’s Russia in 1931. This is where the story takes place and in this very intimate theater, the audience sits on two sides, probably only 14 feet away from the stage are ( in the last row) as we watch a “cat and Mouse” game between “The Director” (an extraordinary performance by Mark L. Montgomery) and one of his editors, Anna ( the incredible Kate Fry). Anna has been summoned to a meeting and as they talk and get to know one each other, it appears that Anna is being recognized for her work and in fact is being promoted.

While all seems perfect, the Director keeps the conversation rolling and begins to examine her life and her subordinates. There are some letters that are being looked at as an investigation is opening about them and as the talk turns to this subject and a deeper look at why she is being promoted over the others in her department, more questions arise. Is the director “baiting ” for information that she doesn’t want to share? Is she giving him misinformation about her peers and her work? At this point, the cat and mouse game becomes more intense and while it seems as if Anna should be on the defensive, it may turn out that she is really on the offensive and the Director should be on his defense. The question arises as to who holds te secrets of these letters and who is the hunter for misdeeds as well as who is the prey.                                                                                                                                                                                                

This is a very intense 80 minutes of drama and suspense as well as some depth in understanding the nature of a power struggle in a political era where power is the key to survival. Or is it? Who holds the key to the truth of these letters and the loyalty of the people to their leaders? During this special morning meeting, we watch the power switch from one to the other, slowly and with no warning. At the end, there will be shock to many in the audience as to the turns they have just witnessed. I will not give away the ending, but will tell you that you need to listen closely to the words that Lowell has given to these two powerful actors. They are both strong character studys and Senior manages to make each segment of the “cat and mouse game” work to perfection.

Part of what makes Writers’ Theatre the powerhouse it is, is the production values of each play they stage. Every detail is sheer magic, whether on the main stage or the intimacy of the Bookstore stage. In addition to Magaw’s set, the furniture and props (Nick Heggestad), costumes (Rachel Anne Healy),Lighting(Christine A.Binder) and sound(Christopher Kriz) all work to truly give us the feel that we are eavesdropping on this meeting. They say that good theater is when the audience truly feels that they have taken down the fourth wall and are watching action as observers of life. In this case, two walls are gone, but the feeling is that we are the “fly on the wall”. In fact, after a few minutes, I forgot that there was another audience on the other side of the room, watching from another angle. The action on the stage was so intense, they disappeared entirely. That is solid theater!

“The Letters” will continue at Writers’ ,Books on Vernon located at 664 Vernon Avenue in Glecoe through March 3rd. While this seems like a long run, remember this is a small house ( approx 60 seats) so it is important for you to place your ticket order as soon as possible. The performance schedule is as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.,Wednesdays the same ( with some matinees in the run),Thursdays and Fridays 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.

Tickets range from $35-$70 and can be purchased at the box office located at 376 Park Avenue, by phone at 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org

There is street parking ( Free)

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Letters”

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