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The best regional drama company in America now has a home worthy of its shows—and is putting on a show worthy of its new home.
Writers Theatre, located in Glencoe, an affluent suburb of Chicago, has just moved into a two-stage complex designed by Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects that is the finest piece of theatrical construction to be built in this country in the past decade. The main stage is housed in a three-quarter-round auditorium with arena-style seating that is similar in layout to its 108-seat predecessor but considerably larger. At the same time, Ms. Gang’s design preserves the up-close-and-personal intimacy that has long been the company’s trademark: You’ll never see a smaller-looking 250-seat theater….
Such a theater deserves to be launched with supreme éclat, and Michael Halberstam, the company’s artistic director, has delivered the goods with a production of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” that is far superior to the ill-fated 2011 Broadway revival. “Arcadia” is, of course, one of the greatest English-language plays of the postwar era, a highbrow whodunit that starts out as a sparkling artificial comedy about extramarital lust, then gradually evolves into a poetic meditation on the philosophico-romantic implications of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Like all of Mr. Stoppard’s plays, it’s intellectually challenging, but Mr. Halberstam’s cast wafts the audience over the knottier stretches…
Mr. Halberstam and Collette Pollard, his set designer, have made imaginative use of the new stage, exploring its seemingly limitless resources with consummate skill….
Rarely have I been more impressed by a young playwright than when I saw Brooke Berman’s “Hunting and Gathering” performed by Primary Stages in 2008. A super-smart portrait of urban love in the age of craigslist, it left no doubt that Ms. Berman had talent to burn, a first impression that was subsequently confirmed by “No Place Like Home,” her 2010 memoir. Not having caught anything else by her since then and wondering how “Hunting and Gathering” would hold up on a second viewing, I paid a visit to the suburban belt that links Baltimore and Washington to see it done by Repstage, a professional company in residence at Howard Community College. I was struck all over again by the craftsmanship of this tightly wrought romcom (90 minutes, no intermission, not a dull moment) about four New Yorkers (Daniel Corey, Rex Daugherty, Alina Collins Maldonado and Kathryn Tkel) who are struggling with the rootless, marginal grab-and-go life of apartment-sitting and couch-surfing that today’s millennials know all too well….
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To read my review of Arcadia, go here.
To read my review of Hunting and Gathering, go here.
A scene from Writers Theatre’s production of Arcadia:
An interview with Brooke Berman, the author of Hunting and Gathering: