Idle Muse Theatre Company Presents THE VEIL Review — Women Who Run With Irish Ghosts

Idle Muse Theatre Company THE VEIL
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Ashley Crowe as Hannah Lambroke, Alison Dornheggen as Lady Madeline Lambroke, Leslie Hull as Mr. Goulding (behind), Catherine Dvorak as Clare Wallace and Ross Frawley as Mr. Fingal. Photo: Steven Townshend

Those who know the work of prolific Irish playwright Conor McPherson will recognize themes of haunting sins of the past, troubling voices in the night and surviving familial trauma. The characters in Idle Muse Theatre Company's midwest premiere of The Veil trounce through dense language you’ll need to follow or you’ll drop out of the loop in short order.

Idle Muse Theatre Presents a Period Piece

Set in 1822 Ireland, famine has brought protest, unrest and tragedy to the locals who rely on the Lambroke estate run by a tri-partite matriarch of mother, daughter and a senile grandma. We might hope the ghosts in the closet of the Lambroke women will serve up some chilling heart-stoppers. Instead, the story seems to want to teach a life lesson of “be true to yourself.” Even so, the spooks taunt us to clean out the closets of our secrets.

Women Rule

Hannah, played by Ashley Crowe is the daughter brokered to be married to an English lord she does not know. Madeline, her mother belies the torture of losing her husband to suicide with a feigned English finesse that doesn’t quite convince she is Irish landed gentry in financial trouble.

The grandmother, Grandie Lambroke, played by Jean Marie Koon is the keeper of wisdom and strength even as she descends into dementia. Koon’s silence is spiked by odd pronouncements that exude a presence that says “we will prevail,” but they fail to take us deeper into the souls of these women.

If there are comic lines in McPherson’s play, most of them come through Mrs. Goulding, played by Leslie Hall, the mother hen of the matriarch. The governess and head maid, her comedy is a breath of fresh air in the density of the language.

Men Who Love Too Much

The men of the Lambroke estate are prone to foolishness even as they summon ghosts they hope to exorcise. Cousin Reverend Berkeley is the expert spiritualist sporting success with his protégé, Mr. Charles Audelle in tow. Audelle owns the other comic offerings in the play, tippling his Sherry spiked with laudanum, barely able to keep his own ghosts in check.

Idle Muse Theatre Company THE VEIL
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Jean Marie Koon as Maria "Grandie" Lambroke and Alison Dornheggen as Lady Madeline Lambroke. Photo: Steven Townshend

Mr. Fingal, the groundskeeper, is the male at hand where males are in short supply. He is smitten with Lady Madeline, but fails to convince he’s in the throws of passion. Maybe it’s Madeline’s frosty exterior. We don’t see the thwarted lover sporting a desperate heart.

Clare Wallace, played by Catherine Dvorak, is all agog for Fingal. Dvorak sings a clear, beautiful, haunting Irish tune in a skittish nervous tone, a welcomed moment of clarity that cuts through the thick language of the dialogue.

Idle Muse Theatre Company THE VEIL
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Ross Frawley as Mr. Fingal and Leslie Hull as Mrs. Goulding Photo: Steven Townshend
Idle Muse Theatre Company THE VEIL
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Jean Marie Koon as Maria "Grandie" Lambroke, Leslie Hull as Mr. Goulding, Catherine Dvorak as Clare Wallace, Ross Frawley as Mr. Fingal and Alison Dornheggen as Lady Madeline Lambroke. Photo: Steven Townshend

Somewhat Recommended

If you enjoy McPherson’s signature density of language, The Veil offers some fodder to chew on. His themes resonate with our own times — economic unrest, threatening foreign rulers, and a spiritual search for release from suffering.

This reviewer found the emotion unconvincing, even while the dialogue teases that a ghost is at hand to bring us into the depths of mystery. McPherson’s script seems to lack the essential mysterium that is the stuff of which Irish ghost folklore is made. In this production, you too may find more English reserve than Irish faeries, sprites and spirits.


August 17-September 17, 2017
Thursday-Saturday @ 8PM
Sunday @ 3PM
Industry performances Thursdays
Sunday Tea following performances on August 27 and September 10


The Edge Theater
5451 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640


$20 Adults, $15 Students/Seniors, $10 Industry, $25 Sunday Tea performances or 773-340-9438


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

Stephen B. Starr
Photo: Eric Ramirez

About the Author:

Stephen B. Starr is Principal of Stephen B. Starr Design, Inc., a design and communication consultancy in Evanston, IL. Stephen is a former president of the Chicago Creative Coalition, organizer for the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group and founder and organizer of the Chicago Web Professionals. Stephen is nurtured creatively by the fine art of story-telling — especially in the theater. As a college journalism major, he has since followed the siren’s call of poetry and short story writing in his free time. He is interested in the wisdom of indigenous spiritual traditions and seeks inspiration in natural settings by gardening, camping, hiking and biking.

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