Lifeline Theatre is known for its adaptations of original works into plays that are creative and innovative- they use their tiny space in Rogers park in ways that are unconventional to make these stories come to life and over the 28 years they have been around, we have seen some wonderful productions. Their current production, “The Moonstone” based on the mystery novel by Wilkie Collins, adapted by Robert Kauzlaric, fits the bill with the exception of the length- far to long and complicated to keep us in suspense. Directed by Paul S. Holmquist with a superior cast of actors, this almost three hours of mystery is more that needed.. The story is about “The Moonstone”, an Indian diamond that has a mysterious history of violence. When it is stolen from Rachel Verinder’s bedroom ( a glorious performance by Ann Sonneville), everyone in the house is suspect. Every character in this story could have been the culprit. This story is thought to be one of the first detective novels in the English language and we spend three acts watching the story unfold. There are many mysteries as some of the characters narrate the story to us and other actors stop the action to either ad something or correct a statement made. The concept is unique and different and as a lover of mysteries and cop shows ( I am addicted to the “Law and Order” series as well as “Criminal Minds”), I was excited to see the unfolding of the “Who Done it” part of the show- which was a clever re-enactment of the events, probably one of the highlights of the entire show.
The set by Ian Zywica is wonderful and unique with its two levels and sliding walls. I just didn’t understand the tearing apart after Act I and Act II of portions exposing bare walls and wood slats ( although they were used well in the “crime sequence”. The set being large doesn’t truly allows for different places in different scenes and may be confusing- do not let that bother you. Watch the actors and listen to the content and it will be far easier to stay with the show. The diamond has a curse that is somewhat explained, but as the play ends, I was still a little unsure if the curse was lifted. The sound ( Cristina DeRisi) and lighting (Brandon Wardall) along with the wonderful costumes(Bill Morey) and great props( Joe Schermoly) helped to complete the picture painted by Holmquist.
Now, back to the cast. In addition to Ms Sonneville, Lifeline, once again has put together some very talented people. Kaitlin Byrd ( who takes on two very different characters, each with a unique personality and as different as night and day), Sonja Field, Peter Greenberg,Vincent P. Mahler,C.Sean Pierman, Cody Proctor, John Henry Roberts,Sean Sinitski, Dave Skvarla and Jennifer Tyler. Mr. Proctor does an excellent job as Franklin Blake ( the love interest) and Sean Sinitski’s Gabriel ( our first narrator) has a nice comic flair to his character. I guess my rea question is , how much comedy does a mystery need? There were several comic touches, often between scenes where things were explained to us and perhaps the comedy detracts from the audience getting the full understanding of what the actors are saying. It is difficult, when writing or adapting to cut things out that “feel good”, but sometimes, one has to look back and say “is this needed?” Maybe Kauzlaric should step back and review his work. With a clip here and there, he may just have a show up to the usual standards of this viable theater company.
“The Moonstone” will continue at LifeLine Theatre, located at 6912 N. Glenwood Avenue ( Rogers Park) through March 27th with performances: Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Tickets range from $32-$35 ( seniors $27, students $20 and RUSH tix at $20 if available 1/2 before curtain) to order tickets call 773-761-4477 or visit www.lifelinetheatre.com
Parking is available on the street, both metered and non-metered and at the lot located at the northeast corner of Morse and Ravenswood with freeshuttle service to and from the theater). For mass transit users, the Morse Avenue stop on the Red Line is perfect.