Remy Bumppo Theatre Company presents a timely and superbly acted remounting of the E.M. Forster’s classic novel HOWARDS END, in Douglas Post adaptation
Early in the first act, one of the Schlegel sisters (lead Eliza Stoughton as Margaret and Heather Chrisler as Helen)--- trust fund babies in today’s parlance--- turns to the other and muses (to paraphrase), “Why do people who have enough money, only want more money…”. A quick collective guffaw emerged from the audience, as if it were a call and response line. Though these women wore stunning and period perfect dresses (Costumer Designer Kristy Leigh Hall) and sat in a salon similarly steeped in Victorian detailing, these words clobber you with their modern relevance. Indeed—at least in this writer’s view—it is the brilliance with which adaptor Douglas Post excised this and similar gems from E.M. Forster’s classic namesake novel that makes this production a delight.
The two sisters’ main challenge in life is overcoming the disappointment of a bad Brahms rendition, or perhaps it was the Mendelsohn, one of them says in their shared chitchat observations that apparently are the beginning, middle and end of their days. From their armchair perches they decry the class divisions being amplified by capitalism’s burst. How these sisters’ stories become entwined with the mercantile Wilcox family and poverty-shackled Mr. Bast and his wife, is the vehicle by which Forster’s zoom lens dissects the class divide of his time.
Mainly, it’s the original and compelling Forster story that transports us from drawing room to drawing room—in this production effected mainly through a twist of divan. Remy Bumppo has also used projection designs, moody music and more to help tell this classic tale (Scenic and projection designer: Yeaji Kim and Sound Designer: Christopher Kriz).
Trademark Remy Bumppo Reliance on Superb Acting and Direction
For this writer though, the stagecraft overall is not that much of a value add. You too may come to suspect that this talented cast would be equally effective if they were only presenting a staged reading of this script that so ably exalts Forster’s observation gems to center stage. Eliza Stoughton, the story’s major focal point character, gives a nuanced performance, as does the entire cast, with not a flaw to be found.
Uber-talented Terry Bell as Leonard Bast is especially mesmerizing—which wouldn’t surprise anyone who just glances at him and wonders if they are feeling an aftershock from his earlier earthquake performance in Eclipse’s Natural Affection.
If you liked the novel or the Merchant movie, you will like this production too. Kudos to Director/Artistic Director Nick Sandys not only for his expert touch in this production but also for staging this now, in a time when we watch the brief blip of class mobility rapidly disintegrate in the roiling seas of college tuition debt.
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
Title: HOWARDS END
Written by: Douglas Post
Adapted from: E.M. Forster’s classic novel
Director: Nick Sandys
Stage Manager: Mara Sagal
Scenic and Projection Designer: Yeaji Kim
Technical Director: Harrison Ornelas
Costume Designer: Kristy Leigh Hall
Assistant Costume Designer: Zannie McElveen
Lighting Designer: Mike Durst
Original Music and Sound Design: Christopher Kriz
Properties Designer: Jamie Karas
Thru October 5
Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:30pm
1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
Cast (in alphabetical order): Terry Bell (Leonard Bast), Heather Chrisler (Helen Schlegel), Jodi Kingsley (Jacky Bast), Tommy Malouf (Paul Wilcox), Michael McKeogh (Charles Wilcox), Natalie Santoro (Evie Wilcox), Eliza Stoughton (Margaret Schlegel), Emily Tate (Dolly Wilcox), and Mark Ulrich (Henry Wilcox).
37.75$+ (discounts for students, industry)
Full-priced tickets and ticket availability info is currently available at the Remy Bumppo Theatre website or or by calling the Theater Wit Box Office at 773.975.8150.
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Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago
PHOTOS: Michael Courier