Chicago Shakespeare Hosts Wise Children’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS Review—A Wild Country on Stage

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A scatter of yellow stars might seem to welcome hope, but the adder slides beneath.

Whoops and yelps and tribal dancing erupt in the Yorkshire moors. A twig-crowned chief (Jordan Laviniere) leads the group of rollicking wild energies and shouts I am the moor, sending shivers of enchantment and awe down this writer’s spine. He waves his hands like water, cloth from the east swaying on his waist. He combines this grace with an urgent thumping like a shaman infused with the forces of nature. The energy pounds and punctured this writer’s smart-phone-induced insulation with seeming ease.

Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights brings the classic to life with some changes. Though, it still remains faithful to Emily Bronte’s text. Readers familiar with the book will note the replacement of Nelly Dean as narrator with the leader of the personified Yorkshire Moors. The set and the accents nonetheless convey a reminiscent 19th Century Yorkshire and a dash of foreign influence pulled in by England’s vast colonial reach.

It opens with Lockwood (Sam Archer) thrusting against a harsh wind to knock at the door of Wuthering Heights. Heathcliffe (Liam Tamne), in imperial fashion, exits and stands in rigid disregard for his new tenant, who flails on the loose door with the wind as sounds of a storm overwhelm the theater. Sam Archer comically keeps a gentleman’s manner in the midst of this. Yet, another spook soon breaks him when he meets a ghost (Katy Ellis' Catherine) banging the windows in the attic. Gusting winds and ghostly moans seem not to drown but accent the performers’ exuberance, as though the effects are themselves expressive and punctual actors in sync.

The Stage Trembles at Chicago Shakespeare

The backdrop of a screen projecting vistas of a cold English sky changes from bleak to brilliant in a scene of Heathcliffe’s childhood with Catherine. The stage becomes fields of grass and distant crags, despite their actual absence, as the children frolic under the fluttering of birds—made of small flapping books waved around by the Moors with long sticks. A Wordsworth poem come alive, the two climb atop a tower of clustered ladders and talk about the Roman Nero, who had deep passion and also none at all, Catherine says. The bullied young Heathcliffe will remember this and later identify himself as such. This writer felt this moment best captured the romantic heights of the play with its powerful fusion of imagery, music, and acting.

The sheer variety of personalities onstage is as chaotically musical as the natural forces they inhabit. Edgar (Sam Archer) and Isabella Linton (Georgia Bruce) are a posh, pinky-up at teatime, couple, who bicker pathetically, though cutely, about holding their fluff-ball dog, played by a literal white fluff-ball. Little Linton (Georgia Bruce) takes this fluffy effeteness to new heights, lifting a pillow as though it were a Stonehenge pillar. The illiterate Hareton Earnshaw (Tama Phethean) looks like a boxer giant and surprises us with gentleness when he gives his beloved a flower from the fields. Like this writer, you too may find this variety an invigorating rejection of minimalism.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS is a superb fusion of a musical, tragedy, and romance that combine to make an engrossing world on stage. Anyone who likes wholesome stories, immersive sets and sounds, or exuberant acting is bound to like it.


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Sam Archer (Lockwood/Edgar Linton/The Moors), Katy Ellis  (Catherine), Georgia Bruce (Isabella Linton/Little Linton/The Moors), Ricardo Castro (Robert/The Moors), Katy Ellis (Zillah/The Moors), Stephanie Elstob (Swing), Lloyd Gorman (Mr. Earnshaw/ The Moors), TJ Holmes (Dr. Kenneth/The Moors), Jordan Laviniere (The Leader of The Yorkshire Moors), Tama Phethean (Hindley Earnshaw/Hareton Earnshaw/The Moors), Eleanor Sutton (Frances Earnshaw/Catherine Linton/The Moors), and Liam Tamne (Heathcliff).


The production’s live music is performed by Sid Goldsmith, Music Director Pat Moran, and Vincent De Jesus, with TJ Holmes and Lloyd Gorman, director Emma Rice, the creative team includes Composer Ian Ross, Scenic and Costume Designer Vicki Mortimer, Sound and Video Designer Simon Baker, Lighting Designer Jai Morjaria, Choreographer Etta Murfitt, Puppetry Designer John Leader, Fight Director Kev McCurdy, and Music Director Pat Moran.


January 27–February 19, 2023


Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Navy Pier
800 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611



For more information and tickets visit the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website.

Photos: Muriel Steinke, courtesy of Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago.

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Anthony Neri

About the Author: Anthony Neri

An avid philosophizer and Dostoevsky fanboy, Anthony spends his time ruminating on very deep moral questions. Is he a genuine old soul or does he feign as much for the mystique?--perhaps a bit of both. When he isn't tormenting himself existentially, he reads fiction and translates ancient Greek and Latin texts, all the while developing his own literary flourishes with the hope of producing his very own dazzling prose. Cliche? Maybe. But he figures everyone starts out as a cliche.

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