Sunday November 19th 2017

“The Pitmen Painters”

Timeline Theatre Company keeps getting stronger and stronger. As the years go by, the members of this troupe and their board seek plays that follow their mission, “to present stories inspired by history that connect with today’s social and political issues”. Their growth in popularity among Chicago theater patrons has even caused them to move a production into another venue in order to insure that their subscription base will be able to see all of their shows. Bravo on 14 wonderful years and based on what I have seen so far in this season 15- they haven’t  missed a step.

The current production, Lee Hall’s “The Pitmen Painters”, is a wonderful story about miners in Northern England, who are asked to better educate themselves and so they form a group to study. Their original request to learn about economics became tabled as they could not find an instructor and they end up with a class in art appreciation. the time was 1934, not an easy time and for miners who crawled in the tunnels all day, this group of men cleaned up pretty well as they came to the WEA Hall for their first lesson. What these men learn is far greater than the appreciation of art, but that art is something within and that your educational and social upbringing has little to do with what you see in art. Yes, what you feel is yours and can and will differ from what others see and feel.

This is a unique story ,written by the man who gave us “Billy Elliot”, is keenly directed by BJ Jones on a fairly simple set by Timothy Mann. The set is designed so that scenes can be changed quickly and the use of projections ( who else but Mike Tutaj, the master of projections)of the artwork, shown on  screens allows us to see what comes out of this class. The script and the direction are keys to this powerful, warm and in many places funny  story, but this marvelous cast truly makes us feel and appreciate the characters written by Hall. If we follow his lead, live theater is an art form with the stage being the canvass and the director and playwright being the co-artists. we, the audience will see things and will agree on some as we will disagree on others. Part of what makes our thoughts interpret the meaning and story as we do are the actors and in this case, the cast of me who make up these mine workers are sheer perfection. William Dick serves well as George Brown, the leader of the group that is to take the class. The others in the class are Oliver ( deftly handled by Dan Waller), Jimmy Floyd ( handled with just the right comic touches by Steven Pringle), local dentists Harry Wilson ( James Houghton), Jordan Brown ( handling two roles) and their instructor, Robert Lyon ( another super performance by Andrew Carter). There are also two women in this cast; the lovely Amanda Schaar who’s character bares it all so that these “artists in training” can learn form and Loretta Rezos as art collector, socialite Helen Sutherland. Each of these actors brings to the stage an amazing understanding of what it is Hall and  Jones are placing on their canvass.

This is a strong production and brings some history to the stage. many of us, I am sure, never knew much about the movement to educate the mine workers in this , one of many little towns that relied on the mines to survive. We are shown that we ,as humans need to understand that art appreciation and even art itself ,is not a “class” or educational thing, but rather a talent or desire by the art lover ( or artists). One feels what one sees, not because of how much money their family has or their social status or even the number of years  they have gone to school. We feel with our heart and soul and these men, men who worked in dark and dank mines for 10 hours a day, we able to not only appreciate art itself, but to create what they felt and saw on canvass. This production is one that can be viewed by high school and college students and should be viewed as an educational experience as well as a theatrical one. I only wish, for theatrical purposes only that Hall had ended the story on a high note instead of the socialism that took over during the end as the war took over. While it is factual to the history of the Pitmen, it brought many people down and with the way our world is today, a night of theater is much better when it ends on a high note.

“The Pitmen Painters” will continue at Timeline Theatre at 615 W. Wellington through December 4th with performances as follows:

Wednesday and Thursdays ( except Thanksgiving ) at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m. ( with a special added 4 p.m. on 11/25),Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $32 ( Wednesday thru Friday) and $42  Saturday and Sunday. ( a true bargain for theater of this quality) There is a $10 student discount ( with valid ID) to order tickets call 773-281-8463 ext 6 or visit

Parking is a bit of a hassle in this are, but you can park at either the Century Mall ( 2836 N. Clark Street) or the LAZ lot at 3012 N. Broadway, both convenient to the theater, don’t forget to bring your parking ticket for validation

Bus service may be the best way to travel using the #22, #36 #8 and more, check on the website for more info.


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