Lifeline Theatre, known for bringing “unforgettable books” to the stage opened it’s 28thseason with Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” adapted for the stage by Christina Calvit. For those of you familiar with Lifeline, they do some awesome work in a theater that once was a factory in Rogers Park. Their stage is the floor and the seats rise so that the sight lines are good from all seats and they even place blankets on the first five rows of seats so that should it be a chilly evening, the audience members will not shiver. “Wuthering Heights” is indeed a love story revolving around the lives of Heathcliff ( well played by Gregory Isaac) and Cathy Earnshaw ( deftly handled by Lindsay Leopold) grew up together and thought themselves to be as one, but due to their status in life, they were torn apart and Heathcliffbecomes a man of revenge on all parties that were involved in this action. In speaking witha few women who have read the novel and seen the movie, I would have to assume that some of the parts were left out in writing a 2 1/2 hour play from a novel that might take six hours to read, but I was able to stay with the first and second generations of characters presented to us.
To follow the story of Cathy marrying Edgar Linton and having a daughter Catherine and Heathcliff coming back to town to take Wuthering Heights away from Cathy’s brother Hindley, then marrying Edgar’s sister Isabella and having a son, Linton ,begins to show the revenge that Heathcliff sought. The story is told to us by the housekeeper, Nelly Dean ( a superb performance by Cameron Feagin) who starts off with the Earnshaw family and then moves on the the Linton family, following Cathy to her new home. While the complicated story may be fairly easy to follow, thanks to the direction by Elise Kauzlaric, this is certainly not a play for everyone. Alan Donahue’s set is a little confusing in that we have a door that rises and falls and we are not always sure of where we are, but Lifeline does the best with a small stage in trying to center the attention on the acting ( substance) over the set( glitz), although I will say that the costumes (Branimira Ivanova) are wonderful and the fights ( staged by Matt Engle) some of the best I have seen in a small, intimate theater.
The cast, in addition to Leopold, Isaac and Feagin is composed of John Henry Robets, Robert Kauzlaric,Sarah Goeden, Nick Vidal,Christopher Chmelik and Lucy Carapetyan, who all do an excellent job. The music and sound ( Andrew Hansen) and lighting ( Sarah Hughey) all add to making this a solid production. While all the pieces of the puzzle are well fitted, I was concerned that the story was not as complete as I would have liked to have seen. I left the theater feeling that there was more to the story and wanted to get answers as to why Heathcliff and Cathy were allowed to be together when they were young. We also never meet Hindley’swife who dies at childbirth and we only know a little of the story on Hindley’s son Hareton. Perhaps Lifeline might offer a post show discussion to answer some of these questions.
“Wuthering Heights” will continue at Lifeline Theatre located at 6912 N. GlenwoodAvenue, through October 31st with performances as follows:
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 with senior and student tickets available ( $27 senior/$20 for students-both with IDS) and can be purchased by calling 773-761-4477 or through HOT TIX www.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/1371
Free parking is available at the lot on the corner of Morse and Ravenswood with free shuttle to and from the theater. There is some street parking and of course the CTA Red Line Morse Avenue gets you very close to the building
To learn more about Lifeline and upcoming productions visit www.lifelinetheatre.com