The Artistic Home BY THE BOG OF CATS Review – An Irish Medea

Artistic Home BY THE BOG OF CATS
Elise Wolf and Kristin Collins Photo: Joe Mazza

There is nothing special about a bog - a large area of swampy land. Sometimes trees grow out if, sometimes there’s a body of water. To the outsider not familiar with Ireland’s bogs, they’re unremarkable pieces of land. However, in the Artistic Home’s production of BY THE BOG OF CATS, the bog is a place that connects the people living on the land.

The Artistic Home’s BY THE BOG OF CATS is a Tale of Nowhere to Go

For one woman in particular, Hester Swane, her life is tied to the bog. But it seems like everybody else around her is trying to force her out.

The once love of her life, Carthage Kilbride, dumped Hester after being together for fourteen years and having a child together. Now, he is engaged to Carline Cassidy, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, Xavier Cassidy.

It becomes a struggle between Hester and this new family as the Cassidys want to take away the home Carthage built for her and their daughter, Josie.

Artistic Home BY THE BOG OF CATS
Frank Nall and Kristin Collins Photo: Joe Mazza

The set designed by Anders Jacobsen and Judy Radovsky reflects this struggle over the land. The background shows both the beauty of the bog with an orange and pink sunrise/sunset reflecting both times of day. But it also shows the darkness that surrounds it. The audience is faced with two opposing buildings - the house Carthage built on one side and a run-down caravan on the other.

Hester was never comfortable in the home Carthage built for her and always needed to roam the bog. But she cannot leave the caravan that was once her home. The Swane family were travelers and, true to character, Hester’s mother leaves her behind when she was only seven years old with nothing but the caravan.

Artistic Home BY THE BOG OF CATS
Kelsey Phillips and Kristin Collins Photo: Joe Mazza

Acting that Delves Deep into Hidden Pasts

The story itself, written by Irish playwright Marina Carr, is loosely based on the Greek tragedy, Medea. It is full of twists and turns that leave you continuously surprised.

The best part about it is, you believe every one!

There wasn’t a moment where you doubted a character would have done that or felt something was out of the blue. The story involves everything a good tragedy needs - a mysterious ghostly figure, continuous conflict, a troubled past, and most importantly, a tragic end.

The cast carries the story truthfully as it goes deeper and deeper into each of the characters’ pasts. We find out how each of the characters on the land are connected to one another.

This makes the story even more troubling as they continuously try to hurt one another. The relationships they show on stage are filled with high energy that grips you to the very end.

Director John Mossman has done a superb job making this cast connect with one another.



Artistic Home BY THE BOG OF CATS
Tim Musachio and Kristin Collins Photo: Joe Mazza
Artistic Home BY THE BOG OF CATS
Elise Wolf and Kristin Collins Photo: Joe Mazza

A Mother and Daughter's Unbreakable Bond

Kristin Collins and Elise Wolf, playing Hester and Josie respectively, give stunning performances that carry the show. Collins plays Hester so wonderfully as she switches from fighting for her life to a loving mother doing the best for Josie. We feel her character's tenacity. She brings us into a whirlwind of emotions hard to keep up with - in the best way. We are torn between rooting for her to win this battle, but also at times worry if she is taking things too far.

As Josie, Wolf shows acting abilities far beyond her years. She is funny and fierce throughout the show. We never doubt her love for her mother and also see her kind and loving nature as she wants to be with both her mother and father.

These two are the perfect pair to run the show and make the ending all the more tragic.

A Haunting Tale That Won’t Be Forgotten

Hester struggles to keep her life together as it feels like everyone in her life has abandoned her - her mother, Carthage, and even at times her own daughter. As the outside forces take control, the story comes to a close and you leave the theater satisfied and perhaps almost in tears. It will haunt you for weeks to come.



Note:  An excerpt of this play appears in Theatre in Chicago.


Now through April 15

Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm


The Artistic Home Theatre
1376 W. Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
Accessible via the CTA #65 Grand bus and the Blue Line


$28 for Thursday or Sunday
$32 for Friday or Saturday

Chicago Theatre Week tickets are available for performances February 9 - 19. Use code THWEEK for discounted tickets.

Tickets are available by calling 312.811.4111 or go to


Joe Mazza at Brave Lux Photography

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2 thoughts on “The Artistic Home BY THE BOG OF CATS Review – An Irish Medea

  1. A nice write up of a lovely play. I do take issue with one statement you make.

    “The Swane family were travelers and, true to character, Hester’s mother leaves her behind when she was only seven years old…”

    While it is certainly true to the play, I’d probably not make that into a sweeping statement about the ethnicity – which it is. Irish travelers are recognized as a distinct ethnic group, likewise the Roma gypsies. If you replace “Traveler” with any other ethnicity (e.g. Jew), I think we’d all cringe to say the same sentence – and that should probably be a sign that the sentiment is over-broad. This mother abandoned her family. But that’s not extendable to the ethnicity.

    Sorry to pick nits. A lovely write up in every other respect.

    1. Hi Liam,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review and the feedback! Perhaps my wording could have been more clear in regards to Hester’s mother – I did not mean to make a blanket statement and imply because she was a traveler she abandoned her daughter. The fact that they were travelers and had a caravan should have been a separate thought followed by a statement about the flaw in her mother’s character where she abandoned her family.

      Apologies for the confusion and any offense this may have caused. Thank you again!


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