Total Rating: 
June 24, 2017
Strawdog Theater Company
Theater Type: 
Theater Address: 
1623 West Howard Street
Rebecca Lenkiewicz

"Earth, receive an honored guest/William Yeats is laid to rest" — don't you believe it! Ireland's most lauded export may have died nearly 80 years, but all it takes is the mention of his name to make a household mired down in gloomy resignation embark on reckless ventures involving romance, risks, and maybe a fresh start on life (or at least a satisfying end thereto).

To be sure, this isn't achieved in The Night Season without some assistance — specifically, the filming of a biopic focusing on the poet's enduring pursuit of Maud Gonne, starring English actor John Eastman as the melancholy wordspinner and a Hollywood star whose name we never learn as his elusive Muse. Rather than keep company with his co-workers, John has decided that lodging with an actual family on location will give him a better understanding of his persona's environment, as well as a reprieve from his sorrow over his mother's recent passing.

He receives both, and more, from his hosts — beginning with 30-something Rose, who shows him to his room and stays to comfort him with snuggles in the sheets, and quickly followed by 70-year-old clan matriarch Lily, now adrift in memories evoked by popular tunes from the 1930s and '40s preserved on old records, who charms him with a gentle gallantry.

The other two Kennedy granddaughters, Judith and Maud, are preoccupied with their respective swains (Judith's beau can't make up his mind whether to pursue a career playing chess in the city and Maud's fancies himself a political radical), while their father plans his days around the hours at the local pub. The malaise holding this unhappy tribe inert is also the absence of a maternal figure — in this case, the Kennedy daughter/wife/mother who ran away to London fifteen years earlier, leaving her kin to ponder the rejection implicit in her flight.

Devising a happy resolution to these woes is a struggle, but Rebecca Lenkiewicz accomplishes it in a script that director Elly Green and a cast of Strawdog ensemble regulars embrace with warmth and gusto making for a congenial yarn progressing at comfortably unhurried velocity for its two-and-a-half-hour duration. Playgoers of literary bent are free to amuse themselves looking for textual references to Chekhov, Shakespeare, Friel and, of course, William Butler you-know-who, but merely spending time with characters as engaging as these is a worthy evening's investment, too.

This review first appeared in Windy City Times, 6/17
Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
June 2017