Today, I went to an enjoyable, richly produced and funny and touching, though somewhat-slight play in its American premiere from London’s Old Globe, Nell Gwynn, about one of the first actresses on the British stage, who went from (probably) prostitute to famed actress to mistress of King Charles. It’s at one of my favorite theaters here, the Shakespeare Theater – the lobby is gorgeous -- not in an ostentatious way but beautifully designed with clean, but textured lines and lots of wood and brass, and the inside is designed so that the stage looks like the Globe. A small troupe of musicians sat in the boxes in the back.
Also, the day before I saw an enjoyable world premiere play at that Writers Theatre in Glencoe, which is another theater I love. It’s the one I’ve mentioned that began life in the back of a bookstore, but expanded to a 115-seat theater in the Women’s Club…and a couple years ago completed a wonderful new structure with two theaters, both quite intimate – this one I was at the other day seats only 90 people and was a wonderful venue. The play was Witch, a very funny drama that’s a sort of Faustian story between an up-and-coming emissary of the Devil and a woman who the town people think is a witch. (“They think I cast a spell on them, but all I did was ask someone to move her bucket.”) And a second plot about the lord of a castle, his son and a poor man with aspirations that interweaves with the main story.
By the way, I knew that they get the main theater critics in Chicago to drive out her in the suburbs to review their productions, as well as the New York Times (even when they were in the bookstore) and Wall Street Journal on occasion. And I knew (as I've written) that Jessie Mueller performed here before going to Broadway to win a Tony in Beautiful. (I saw her here in She Loves Me.) But I just discovered that Carrie Coons did a Tom Stoppard play there in 2011 before she got a Tony nomination for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and starred in the mini-series of Fargo (for its third season) and the recent The Sinner, as well as other things.
And then there was also the pretty good play,Curve of Departure, that I wrote about here the other day that starred Mike Nussbaum.
I've long been impressed by the quality -- and support -- of theater here. And this trip has just confirmed it all the more.