CityLit Theater THE SUNDIAL Review – SciFi End of the World

Nora Lise Ulrey, Stephanie Monday, and Kingsley Day Tom McGrath

There’s been a death in the family

Based on the novel by Shirley Jackson, comes Paul Edwards’ stage adaptation of THE SUNDIAL presented by CityLit Theater.

Here the play starts out innocent enough— or perhaps innocent is a relative term here.

In the Halloran House, the family is mourning the death of the master of the house, Lionel Halloran. Emotions are already running high. His wife, Mary Jane, blames his death on his mother, Orianna, and has taught her daughter to say so.

This is only the beginning of the plights fallen upon this family.

Paul Edwards Photo Courtesy of CityLit Theater
Lauren Mangum and Morgan McCabe Tom McGrath

Things start to get worse

If you thought you were in for a murder mystery type of play, you’d be dead wrong.

Aunt Fanny, none too happy with Orianna’s control of the household, starts seeing visions of the apocalypse where anyone in the house would be saved. Things start to spiral into a preparing for the end of the world situation. Other uninvited guests arrive at the house—Augusta Willow and her daughter Julia, along with Orianna’s cousin, Gloria, . They can’t leave or risk peril outside the house. The rest of the play involves doomsday preparations, a self-coronation, a celebration, and a blackout.

CityLit script follows book

The plot seems like it follows the book fairly well, including some comical parts that were great mood boosters. Kingsley Day plays the slightly senile grandfather, but steals the scene when he’s onstage as the elderly bookstore owner in town. Miss Oglivie, played by Christina Renee Jones, was also great when she visited the ice cream parlor in town and realized all the delights she’d be missing out on when everything would be gone.

Watch this video to hear the director and actors of this production talk about the script---

Morgan McCabe Tom McGrath

Shirley Jackson Photo Courtesy of CityLit Theater

Relationships confusing but costumes help

Most of the characters had very distinct personalities that gave them a sense of purpose. However, much of the play is centered on doomsday preparations that leave the characters holding their one note personalities for the entire show. For example, it was clear from the beginning that Orianna, played by Sheila Willis, should be a focal character as she gained control of the household. Perhaps though, it would have been great to see more development on her ascent into power, so it doesn’t seem so jarring at the end. However, her costumes were great at making her the focal point of any scene.

Patti Roeder, Costume Designer, did a fantastic job choosing Orianna’s looks as well as those of the other characters. They all worked well with their personalities.

The unknown end of the world

Shirley Jackson was known for making her endings unclear, leaving questions unanswered. Perhaps this was meant so that readers are left thinking about the story after they’ve put the book down. That will certainly be the case leaving the theater after seeing THE SUNDIAL.

Though there was some room for character development, the story is an interesting one that keeps spiraling as the characters approach what might be the end for them. You won’t find many plays in Chicago involving the end of the world.

Somewhat recommended.


Now through February 12
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm.


City Lit Theatre
1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660


Regular run ticket prices $29.00
Seniors $25
Students and military $10

Tickets on sale now at


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

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