Monday, April 15, 2013

Eclipse Focuses on Ayckbourn

Chicago's Eclipse Theatre Company focuses on the work of one playwright each season. And this season it's... Alan Ayckbourn!

I love Ayckbourn. He's inventive and smart when it comes to plot and structure as well as physical time and space, and he does all of that with humor and depth and a whole lot of wit. Ayckbourn's plays are performed around here occasionally, if not regularly, and I always make a point to see them.

So will I make it to Eclipse to see their Ayckbourn run? Fingers crossed!

The first show of their Ayckbourn-centric season is Woman in Mind, the darkly comic journey inside the mind of one unhappy British housewife. You may remember Woman in Mind from the Heartland Theatre production a few years ago that featured Lori Adams. At Eclipse, Woman in Mind opened April 11, with ensemble member and Goodman Theatre associate Steve Scott directing and ensemble member Sally Eames as the central Woman into whose mind we leap. Performances continue through May 9 at Chicago's Athenaeum Theatre.

After that, Eclipse will produce a lighter comedy, Bedroom Farce, directed by guest artist Nick Sandys, with performances from July 25 to September 1; and a ghost story called Haunting Julia, directed by Jeff award winner Kevin Hagan, scheduled for October 31 to December 8.

To accompany their three main shows, Eclipse is also promising other readings and events to celebrate and illuminate the life and work of Sir Alan as the season progresses.

As far as I'm concerned, you can't possibly spend too much time on Ayckbourn. Go for it, Eclipse!


  1. Oh, envy! I am just as big an Ayckbourn fan, as you know. And all of these plays are eminently worth doing and seeing. Well, "Woman in Mind" needs no introduction to your readers, as it was done locally not long ago. (And when the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour was talking about the concept of unreliable narrators just last week, someone wondered if the concept could be brought off in a stage play. This came to mind immediately as the prime example.

    I've seen "Bedroom Farce" too -- in its Broadway production, in fact, for which Sir Peter Hall's NT cast was imported. It's one of his rare true farces (though not without deeper nuances lurking), as we see three bedrooms side by side in three houses in different parts of London, and the remarkably un-erotic goings on in all of them on one particular weekend, as 8 characters move among them. I especially remember a comfy older couple (who both won Tony awards for this), memorably played by Michael Gough (of later fame as Batman's butler Alfred) and Joan Hickson (of later fame as Miss Marple).

    I've only read "Haunting Julia," not seen it, but it's a sort of departure for Sir Alan. He says he'd long wanted to write a ghost story, but it's a different kind of ghost story, being mostly about the puzzled survivors.

    Good for Eclipse!

  2. Pretty sure I've seen a bad production of Bedroom Farce, but never Haunting Julia. On my Ayckbourn bucket list are The Norman Conquests, A Small Family Business, Time of My Life and House and Garden. (Meaning I haven't seen them, but I certainly wish I could.)