For those of you who have never ventured to Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe, you are missing out on some marvelous theater. They have two stages, one a normal size north of downtown Glencoe, the other located in the back of the Vernon Book Store located at 664 Vernon Avenue in what is considered the “downtown Glencoe” area. This theater seats around 50 patrons and is probably the most intimate of storefront theaters in Chicagoland ( however, this is a storeback theater, as one must walk through this glorious bookstore to enter the stage area. They do wonderful theater in this space and audiences feel as if they are almost part of the action.
Their current production is an adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, “Travels With My Aunt” by Giles Havergal. This is a charming little story about Henry Pulling, a mild mannered retired banker who comes to meet up again with his aunt at his Mother’s funeral in England. While this sounds like a simple story, it is anything but- as we, the audience are about to take a 2 1/2 hour journey down a path that will be quite memorable for each and every member of the audience. Director Stuart Carden uses four of Chicago’s top actors to play the more than 25 characters in the story and each of them plays Henry Pulling. Sound confusing? It might, but under the careful direction of Carden, we are never bothered by this at all. In fact, it is a treat to watch these four men (Sean Fortunato,Jeremy Sher, John Hoogenakker and LaShawn Banks make instant changes of character ( as well as gender) with only their acting ability and voices. All four men are dressed alike, very formal English including the typical derby or bowler as some call it, and yet with the flick of a wrist, they become other characters. Fortunato handles the role of Aunt Augusta to perfection and Hoogenakker does great father and daughter characters. Jeremy Sher, who also takes on many roles is also the onstage sound effects man ( sort of like a Foley is in the old radio shows) making wonderful sounds out of ordinary items.
This is a true escapade of comedy with four brilliant actors playing the same role as well as many others and once we get into the first ten minutes, we have no problem following who they are. In fact, the 2 1/2 hours in the small theater was probably the shortest 2 1/2 hours I have ever spent in the theater- that’s how quickly it moved. The sound design, including the “Foley” concept is by Mikhail Fiskel ( aka, The White Russian) who is one of Chicago’s top sound people. The set by Brian Sidney Bembridge ( another well known name in our great theater city) works just right for this small venue with walls lined with suitcases and antiques and some wonderful props designed by Nick Heggestad and the show is well lit by Jesse Klug. The costumes (Jacqueline Firkins)are quite simple in that all four are dressed in formal attire (perfect for their Henry character).
We travel to France, Argentina and Paraguay with Aunt Augusta meeting all types of characters and retracing her past and future.As it tursn out, Aunt Augusta is not exactly what she appears to be. There is of course, as in most English “tour de force” comedies a bit of a surprise at the end, but one that will bring a rather large smile to your face. If you have never attended a Writers’ work, you need to plan to do so now! “Travels” will continue through March 27th, so you have ample time ( but remember, seating is quite limited). Performances are as follows:
Tuesday and Wednesday 7:30 p.m.,Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.
Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. are on 12/22,12/29,1/26,3/2 and 3/23 ONLY
NO SUNDAY EVENING PEFORMANCES on 1/30,3/6 and 3/27
and of course, no performances on 12/24 and 25th or 12/31 and 1/1 so the actors can enjoy the holidays with their families.
Tickets range in price from $45-$60 and are available at the theater box office located at 376 Park Avenue, by phone at 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org
There is plenty of free street parking in Glencoe, a real treat- no meters!