Total Rating: 
November 12, 2017
Timeline Theater Company
Theater Type: 
Baird Hall
Theater Address: 
612 West Wellington Avenue
Peter Morgan

Elizabeth Windsor was not the first English queen to embark on her reign like a new principal charged with bringing order to a schoolful of unruly children. From Henry Tudor's multiple marriages to the adulterous roistering of Victoria's sire and dame down through Uncle Edward's 1936 abdication, daughters ascending the throne have quickly perceived their role to be that of the adult in the room, a responsibility to be preserved for as long as such supervision should be required.

Playwright Peter Morgan has made a career of documenting the alleged activities of the powerful and privileged. His latest roman a clef proposes to eavesdrop on the weekly briefing sessions ("audiences") between the designated leader of the Commonwealth and its chief executive officers, the Prime Ministers—eight of whom we meet in the course of our visit. Since these real-life interviews were, and are, conducted in strict confidence, Morgan is free to speculate.

His speculations deliver a portrait of the current monarch in her advisory capacity, albeit not above offering mumsie comfort to movers-and-shakers beset by stress and/or pique. Nevertheless, we require only a glimpse of the now nonagenarian ruler upon assuming her office in 1953 to discern her propensity for keeping ahead of those who would underestimate her, even as she also strives to integrate her personal and public spheres more gracefully than her misbehaving kin.

Despite extensive playbill notes acquainting us Yanks with foreign protocol, playgoers will need to exercise extreme vigilance, since Morgan has written not a play so much as an outline for a prospective screenplay. The array of costume-and-wig changes mandated by his non-chronological narration, combined with the interludes engendered thereby (featuring the infant Princess "Lillibet" assessing her future and an equerry/butler providing tour-guide exposition) threaten to transform a text already marred by archetypal sensibilities into a full-out stunt-show.

Rather than fighting these flaws, however, director Nick Bowling embraces their commercial-savvy expedience to create a milieu allowing the formidable Janet Ulrich Brooks and the sturdy Matt DeCaro, Marc Ulrich and Carmen Roman to lend their personae a playful charm never spilling into caricature. Their warmth is echoed by dialect instructor Elise Kauzlaric's deft dialect instruction and by Andrew Hansen's score of period music, culminating in the most imaginative curtain call of the season.

This review first appeared in Windy City Times, 8/17
Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
August 2017