There’s no question that 2016 was the year of the “big” theater in Chicago. After a few years of what some might regard as stagnation at some of Chicago’s most prominent theater institutions, nearly every one of them set out to confound that perception. Most of the plans that came to fruition at Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Goodman, and the like in 2016 were well underway for some time, but the confluence of them all made for an incredible year. Yet, it was the smallest of the heavy-hitters that rose above the rest — Writers Theatre.
Writers began their 2016 midway through the run of Jordan Harrison’s MARJORIE PRIME, directed by Kimberly Senior, offering one last look at the Glencoe bookstore space. In his four-star review, Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune called all of the acting sensational, but particularly the legendary Mary Ann Thebus, saying “this is among my very favorites of all the work I’ve seen from this venerable actress over the years.”
In February, Writers opened its stunning $28 million new venue, an architectural marvel from Jeanne Gang. On the outside, it’s certainly the best-looking theater in the Chicago area, and on the inside it’s comfortable, social, and most importantly, as productions to come will demonstrate, perfectly serves Writers’ intimate and intellectual sensibilities.
The first production to officially open the new space was a pitch-perfect rendering of Stoppard’s ARCADIA, directed by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam with a gentle and exacting hand. Our Abigail Trabue called it the “quintessential Writers work.”
A collaboration with Second City followed, entitled DEATH OF A STREETCAR NAMED VIRGINIA WOOLF, a heady comedy that spoke directly to the Writers audience, smashing together some of the most overproduced classic plays into what Cara Winter called a “delightful, irreverent, Franken-parody—a raucous, gleeful, no-holds-barred send-up of an entire genre.”
The first musical in the new space, COMPANY, closed out the 15/16 season. We didn’t review, but Chris Jones gave it four stars, calling it “a formidable achievement, seemingly reached without compromising a word or a note in the original text or score.” Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal called it “a first-class revival. I doubt you’ll see a stronger, more sympathetic production … or one that moves you more deeply.”