Underscore Theatre Company and The Den Theatre Present HAYMARKET Review – Go for the Gallows Humor

It was as if someone has switched on the klieg lights…

This writer guesses that some HAYMARKET audience members might sometimes make the tragic mistake of leaving at intermission.  For this writer at least—a one-time labor organizer for a decade and first fan of Picture this Post writer and Haymarket expert Joe Rulli—the first act was relatively flat.

That fleeting thought was before super-magnetic Bridget Adams King as Lucy Parsons unleashes the cast into a circus romp recount of the fixed jury selection and judge bias that gave the defendants in the famed Haymarket bombing affair the chance of the proverbial snowflake in hell.  The first act andante turns allegro and then vivace until it ratchets up to full-throttle Vivacissimo.  In lesser hands than those of playwright/composers Alex Higgin-Houser and David Kornfeld and Directors Nick Thornton (Director/Choreographer) and Robert Ollis (Music Director) this scene might have been desert dry.  Here though- from red-nosed clowns, to hoop jumping gags, and more--- the rigged court scene just EXPLODES with creativity.  This alone makes HAYMARKET folk musical a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BEST PLAY PICK!!

Underscore Theatre Company HAYMARKET
Sarah Beth Tanner, Mike Mazzocca, T.J. Anderson, Elleon Dobias, Amanda Giles, Bridget Adams-King, Erik Pearson, Joey Harbert, Melanie Vitaterna, Kelan M. Smith, Josiah Robinson and Eric Loughlin in Underscore Theatre Company and The Den Theatre’s new musical HAYMARKET Photo: Michael Brosilow
Underscore Theatre Company HAYMARKET
(left to right) Mike Mazzocca, Elleon Dobias, Joey Harbert, Erik Pearson, Melanie Vitaterna, Amanda Giles, Josiah Robinson and Kelan M. Smith Photo: Michael Brosilow

But it gets even better! Anyone who has suffered through a seeming interminable anarchist or socialist speech will certainly get an extra wide smile watching T. J. Anderson give the (abridged!) re-enactment of convicted August Spies making one last, and then one more last, and even more last final statement. You can be a politico virgin for that scene and still get a belly laugh! And, when Adams-King as Lucy Parsons joins Nina Van Zandt (Amanda Giles) in singing The Order of the Gallows the mirth vibe swells up yet another notch and helps carry you to the too-soon feeling of the play close. “Oh dear, is it really over so soon?” is likely the thought of many in the audience by the curtain bows.

While the story has these star roles, and also velvet-voiced Erik Pearson as Albert Parsons and a dour-faced and graceful snake slithering bomb-lover Louis Lingg, played by Joey Harbert, the supporting cast provides equal and then-some energy.

This is truly ensemble work with talent exploding from the stage.  They sing, they play instruments, they harmonize, solo shine and more.

Nobody does explosions better than Undercover Theatre

And, Spoiler alert:   The imaginative way that gunfire and bomb explosions are done is singular and outstanding.

This is the second life in Chicago for Jeff-nominated best script Haymarket and not to be missed. In these times, Haymarket comes across as a survival guide for a city and country smarting from the festering wounds of a broken justice system.  Don’t miss this chance to discover your inner Wobbly.


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.

Book and Lyrics: Alex Higgin-Houser

Music: David Kornfeld

Director: Nick Thornton

Music Director: Robert Ollis

Cast (in alphabetical order): Bridget Adams-King (Lucy Parsons), T.J. Anderson (August Spies), Elleon Dobias (Pick Chorus), Amanda Giles (Nina Van Zandt), Joey Harbert (Louis Lingg), Eric Loughlin (Pick Chorus), Mike Mazzocca (George Engel), Erik Pearson  (Albert Parsons), Josiah Robinson (Adolph Fischer), Kelan M. Smith (Pick Chorus), Sarah Beth Tanner (Jane Engel) and Melanie Vitaterna (Joanna Fischer).

The production team for HAYMARKET includes: Eric Luchen (scenic designer), Christina Leinicke (costume designer), Erik Barry (lighting designer), Brandon Reed (sound designer), Kate Cuellar (dramaturg), Jena Sugay (assistant director), Andy Lynn and Ellen Domonkos White (co-production managers) Josh Prishing (technical director) and Kristin Mazzocca (stage manager).


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


Thru July 22

Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3 pm.

Note: No performance on Monday, June 25; there will be an added performance on Thursday, July 19.


The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage
1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.


$30+ (half priced for students and industry)

For tickets visit the Underscore Theatre website 


Photos: Michael Brosilow

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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