Refuge Theatre Project Presents THE SPITFIRE GRILL Review – Intimate, Inventive Theatre

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Lauren Paris, Alex Christ and Gerald Richardson

Refuge Theatre Project continues its mission of bringing unique theatrical experiences to its audience with its production of THE SPITFIRE GRILL. This intimate musical set mostly inside a diner keeps the audience close, both literally and figuratively. 

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Lauren Paris and Katherine Condit


The musical centers on a woman named Percy who has just been released from prison. She chooses the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin to begin her new life. Upon arrival, Percy becomes employed at the only local eatery, the titular Spitfire Grill. Percy soon becomes entangled in the small town’s happenings and the lives of its residents. Mystery surrounds her as she keeps most of her life’s details to herself and remains in the dark about the diner owner’s past as well.

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Nicole Michelle Haskins, Emily Goldberg and Alex Christ


As per its mission, Refuge Theatre Company sets productions in organic environments that fit the story. The Windy City Cafe, an actual working diner, provides the venue for this show. Audience members sit in actual diner booths among salt and pepper shakers and packets of jam. The small space provides a perfect arena for the amazing unamplified singing and music. Music director Jon Schneidman plays the piano, guitar and harmonica (sometimes all at the same time) bringing an extra layer of harmonious closeness between the characters and the audience. At times, the actors are so close to the audience, the line between the fake diner and the real diner simply disappears.

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Lauren Paris

Creative lighting design is key to creating the realistic atmosphere of a diner at different times of the day. The colors and timing of light changes are masterfully created by lighting designer Collin Helou. The actual lights over each booth move and change seamlessly with the action of the play. The actual entrances and exits come in directly from the street. The realness of the piece is immeasurable.

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Katherine Condit, Lauren Paris and Emily Goldberg


The small cast is full of amazing talent. Lauren Paris leads this show through its darkness with grace and just the right amount of brutal sadness. She brings the audience along on Percy’s journey through her second chance at finding happiness with obvious affection for the character and genuine admiration for the story. Emily Goldberg is both strong and sweet as Shelby; a woman dealing with trying to be herself despite her life with a controlling husband. Nicole Michelle Haskins provides a much-needed laugh every time she makes one of her glorious entrances as the town busybody.

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Nicole Michelle Haskins

The show is definitely a one of a kind experience, as are all productions by one of Chicago’s most ambitious theatre companies. You will never see a production of this show in this manner anywhere else.

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Alex Christ


Top Pick For: Musical theatre fanatics
Not recommended for: Strictly traditional, classic theatre goers

Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

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


March 23 - May 5, 2018

Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
Industry Night: Monday, April 16 at 7pm

Photos by

Zeke Dolezalek


Windy City Cafe, 1062 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago


Online at Refuge Theatre Project

Refuge Theater - SPITFIRE GRILL
Alex Christ and Lauren Paris
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