by Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald Critic At Large
It's profit over principles in George Bernard Shaw's keen, cutting 1892
comedy "Widowers' Houses," a critique of coldhearted capitalism which Shaw
included in his "Plays Unpleasant" trio of comedies that attacked society's
Chicago's TimeLine Theatre delivers a sparkling, fast-paced revival of the
playwright's first and reportedly least favorite (but still exceptional)
play. In "Widowers' Houses," Shaw pairs a pointed attack on the slumlords of
19th century Britain with an unsentimental romance between unlikable lovers.
The result is a sardonic, convention-defying comedy centered around the
romance between well-meaning physician Henry Trench (PJ Powers, whose
nervous energy and easy affability recalls a less-mannered Hugh Grant) and
Blanche (a daunting Kathy Logelin as the antithesis of the traditional
romantic heroine), daughter of unapologetic capitalist Sartorius (a
dispassionate David Parkes, whose defiant hair reflects his character's
The match appears set until Trench discovers the source of Sartorius' income
- crumbling tenements managed by the destitute Lickcheese (a charismatic
scoundrel expertly realized by the always watchable Terry Hamilton) whose
fortunes improve considerably by the play's end.
Directed by Kevin Fox with an elegant, cream-colored set by Brian Sidney
Bembridge and natty period costumes by Rachel Anne Healy, TimeLine's
well-done revival also features Mark Richard as Cokane, Trench's well-bred
but morally wanting friend and Liza Fernandez as Blanche's ill-used maid.
• "Widowers' Houses," 4 stars, through July 1 at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W.
Wellington Ave., Chicago. $25. (773) 281-8463 or www.timelinetheatre.com.