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The pressroom is open! TimeLine’s revival of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s quintessential Chicago classic opened last week and already ticket demand has been so strong that we have announced an extension through July 17. The audience response has been amazing, especially watching folks react to the dramatic lobby display, completely re-envisioned theatre space, and of course, the play itself. This town’s theater critics have already had their say (on opening night you certainly could tell that it was an audience of journalists watching the play!) and you can read all the official critical response at our website. But we also invite you to publish your own reporting on the play: Responses, reviews, comments or questions are welcome below. We look forward to the conversation!

Images from TimeLine's production of "The Front Page." Pictured (clockwise from upper left): Mechelle Moe as Mollie Malloy, Rob Fagin as Earl Williams, PJ Powers as Hildy Johnson, Terry Hamilton as Walter Burns.
Images from TimeLine’s production of “The Front Page.” Pictured (clockwise from upper left): Mechelle Moe as Mollie Malloy, Rob Fagin as Earl Williams, PJ Powers as Hildy Johnson, Terry Hamilton as Walter Burns.

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  1. Emel Singer

    Another great production and what an amazing cast. Congrats, TimeLine!

  2. Gregory Sims

    Sorry, but this was the first play I haven’t liked in the past two years I have been coming to the TimeLine. Just too much frenzy and shouting for me. Guess you can’t please all the people all he time. But I really like this theater company, and will be back for the entire next season.

    • Blooma Stark

      I completely agree. Too much frenzy and shouting. Although the cast was great, the play was very dated. We did not enjoy it.

  3. James Gunn

    I felt sorry for the actors trapped in this disaster. I couldn’t face sitting through the second act. I’ve seen every production since The History Boys [a triumph] and have been very pleased by all the productions. I’ll be back for next season. I’m hoping this production was just a fluke.



  5. Dr Jerry Field

    If you are asking for my opinion why send me the Sun-Times quote- I’m sure you’re not trying to stack the desk – Or counter the the unkind commenst in this blog. They may not read the newspapers. If you have not been working at a newspaper I can undersrand the lack of understanding of the historical attitudes of the reporters. It was a fine production and well acted. The play was written in the 30’s relecting the attitudes of the time, a major factor why some might not enjoy the “dealines and monkey shines” that existed till the late 60’s. As a former Lerner and Sun-Times reporter and employee it was well acted. One can relive the old styles of reporting, get it right, get it accurante and get it quickly, a dig for the a story that will make the front page. And no typoes.

  6. Alice Gutenkauf

    Yes it was raucous – yes it was frenetic and sometimes I couldn’t understand them but I have no doubt that the time and place were fairly accurately described. I enjoyed the play and laughed alot. I would have liked more description in the playbook as I was too young to be aware of the circumstances at the time, especially since I hadn’t read the book.

  7. Win Whelan

    In general I liked it a lot. There were times when I couldn’t understand the characters, especially right at the beginning. The idea of having a supposed criminal hiding inside of a rolltop desk was quite a trick! I especially liked the mother in law. She played her part so well. The other characters were “all of a piece.” There was no individuality to them. Overall though, it was a good play and I enjoyed it.

  8. Dick Prins

    Thoroughly enjoyable with super performances. A delight.

  9. Jerrold Seckler

    I found the frentic action difficult to relate to and overall I did not enjoy this play. It is the first Time Line production I’ve not enjoyed (and I’ve been attending regularly for several years).

    I think the issue for me was simply that I found the play boring and never became engaged with the characters or the action.

    I left the theater with a headache and nothing more.

  10. Laurie Donohue

    My husband, daughter and I were at last Saturday’s performance and we loved every minute of it. All the characters were perfectly cast and we particularly enjoyed the mother-in-law. This was our first experience at TimeLine and we will be back.

  11. Leigh

    I was laughing so hard that I know people around me were starting to stare! This play definitely had a different pace and style from past Timeline productions. But I loved it. I may take Nick’s advice from the Backstory. He said he tells people to see productions staged in the round a 2nd time and sit on a different side to get a new perspective of the play. Since The Front Page has already been extended, I could get that chance.

  12. TimeLine Theatre

    Thanks everyone for your great comments and feedback! Keep it coming, we appreciate hearing all the diverse reactions to this historic play.

  13. pat kovar

    What energy!

    Thought it was tremendous fun and a good look into the life of newsmen of the era.

    Timeline has been a great addition to my life. I thoroughly enjoy the intimacy of the theater and the care taken to appropriately create the ambiance of the time and events portrayed in the play.

  14. Chuck & Fran Licht

    Well, spoilsports will be spoilsports. Fran & I LOVED the FRONT PAGE. Saw some great acting. Of course the play hasn’t changed in 60-70 years but the acting does and the performance we saw was super. Especially enjoyed PJ and Terry. SUPER acting. We have been subscribers for some years and really haven’t seen a bad show yet. Remind me to tell you our story about a local critic. Don’t want to put it on the web since we know the person and there is no sense making her angry with us
    Thanks for another GREAT show

  15. Richard Bail

    TimeLine finally missed the mark. After enjoying three years of some of the best theatre in Chicago, the Company failed to deliver. The first thirty minutes are a cacaphony of sounds and shouting designed to illustrate the hustle and bustle of a 1928 press room that succeeded only in alientating this patron. The performers must think they are in the Chicago Theatre and not the intimate theater space on Wellington as each performer shouted his way to some invisible last row that must be 50 – 75 feet beyond the the very real last row in which I was sitting. I almost left at the end of the first act I was that ambivalent toward the performances. That said, I am glad I stayed. The second act caught fire, rescued primarily by the arrival of Walter Burns ( played by Terry Hamilton). All in all, I enjoyed Front Page – – – BUT – – – please reconsider the opening scene. It almost spoiled an evening at the theatre and it has made a treasured theater company look very fallible.

  16. Daniel Kelly

    Wow! You guys give new meaning to the phrase space utilization. All that running around on that tiny stage. The actors “foot brakes” were obviously well conditioned, otherwise any
    number of people in the front rows could have been “taken out”. The humor was spot-on.
    The guys did a great job capturing the “razzing” environment, and trying to “one-up”
    each other. I brought my parents, both having seen the play 50+ years ago. Both were born
    just as the play had its Broadway debut. Dad really connected with it, having graduated from the j-school at “Mizzou” in the ’40’s. he knew many “guys at the papers”. How that industry has evolved. In not too many years, kids will ask , “what were newspapers?”

  17. John Sterling

    Came to The Front Page with a big group on Saturday evening and the buzz after was very positive – people had a lot of fun and enjoyed the show tremendously.

    My personal reactions:
    Kingston is an absolute jewel and drives the opening scene very effectively – gets the “guys” churning and the whole play rolling.
    Mechelle Moe could make reading the phone book compelling – playing distraught and abused Molly, she’s awesome.
    Angela Bullard makes you cower and bust out laughing simultaneously.
    PJ Power’s face toward the end of the first act tells you everything you need to know about Hildy’s love of reporting – makes the competition between his “two great loves” tangible.
    Terry Hamilton is too good for words – his Walter Burns is the original “fair and balanced.”

    Great job all. See it while you have the chance.

  18. James Henderson

    I enjoyed the performance from the moment I sat down in the theater in the round setting till the last phone stopped ringing on stage. This has been a great season at Timeline, but I think they left the best for last. The season is ending with a classic newspaper comedy that is simply a blast!

  19. Gerry Souter

    I’ve never been disappointed with a Timeline production. Our subscription was a great investment, but Front Page really touched a personal note. I was a photogrpaher for the Chicago Tribune in 1964-65, a art student who cut his journalistic teeth at a weekly paper in Yuma, Arizona before diving into the rough and tumble of Chicago news gathering. Your set and the characters created by MacArthur and Hecht mirrored the guys coming and going at the Trib photographer’s lounge. While the action was amped up, the attitudes and personalities were spot on. Thanks for a wonderful evening of nostalgia. When it was over, I wanted to go down to the Billy Goat’s for a “chisborger.”

  20. Randy Blecha

    Saw The Front Page on Sunday, May 22. I thoroughly enjoyed the lobby display, the costumes and the Chicago locus of the play. What I failed to appreciate was two and a half hours of of bellicose shouting and slapstick jokes. Not that it’s wrong, but we’ve been conditioned to expect more from Bowling, Powers and Hamilton.

  21. barbara litwin

    Wow- I thought our group was the only one who did not really love the play. The hype was so big. I thought the acting was terrific, but the story was too old and hard to follow. The staging was a bit too close for comfort. I loved “In Darfur” and “Julia and Julia.” I ran out and told friends they had to see the other plays. For this one, I suggested they skip it. Sorry.

  22. Kay Schmitt

    I loved it! I am partial to very contemporary theatre, but do enjoy seeing a well done period piece. Front Page was so perfect in every detail–set, costumes, pitch, that i felt I was truly back in that age and in that particular atmosphere of the newsroom frenzy, and the biases of that time. It was also beautifully cast with your usual highly skilled actors, under the best direction.

  23. Richard Eastline

    It’s a remarkable production—going back to the original character of the play. It’s gritty, rough, politically incorrect and because of all that, it’s far more authentic a replication of those earlier days of reporting news. The performances (as usual with TimeLine) are riveting, with spot-on characterizations. Another winner!

  24. Scott Olson

    There is a huge difference between being real human beings with needs and wants who live in 1928 and people who are “play-acting” being people in 1928. I thought this production was awful. There was barely one person on stage I cared about and I felt that no one on stage was concerned about telling the audience the story. I was grateful when the women showed up on stage because they seemed to be real people as opposed to the men who were playing what they’ve seen done in old movies but not one person wanted or needed something from another person on stage.

  25. D Holdstein

    I’m troubled by the views expressed by those who dismiss the production and the play as “dated.” it’s very sad that there is little or no appreciation for the past as it informs the present, a past from which we can learn. The play is terrific, the acting is terrific, and the production is terrific. The staging and the set are magnificent and smart. I commend Timeline for having the guts to remind people that the world wasn’t invented yesterday–or by CNN or Steve Jobs, either.

  26. David Varnerin

    Your production was excellent. I think everyone who was in the audience the evening I saw the play would agree with this. And while your staging was excellent, I think that a conventional staging would have been fine. I sometimes wonder what the cost of reconfiguring the seating costs. In this production, I think it was nice but not essential, given the small size of your theatre. As a contributor, I want to be assured that donationed funds are used prudently.

    Keep up the good work!

    • John Sterling

      David –

      As a former board member at TimeLine, I can assure you that donated (and earned) funds are used prudently. The company has won multiple awards for responsible management practices and has never run a deficit.

      A number of years ago, TimeLine invested reserves in the purchase of state-of-the-art modular seating and risers. That investment actually saves money – as constructing risers out of plywood and 2x4s was monumentally time consuming and expensive. As an added benefit, the new seats are dramatically more comfortable for patrons.

      Meanwhile, long time audience members can attest to gradually, consistently more sophisticated production values. While improving production values cost more, they also deliver better theater-going experiences.

      So, no worries, your patronage and donations are much appreciated and treated as precious.

      John Sterling

  27. phyllisophical

    As usual, the staging and the acting were fantastic but I thought that the play was dated and boring.

  28. Helen Moore

    There was entirely too much shouting. It was like attending a concert where everything was fortissimo! If I hadn’t ridden with others, I would have left.

  29. Leonard and Phyllis Berlin

    Of course the play was dated. Did some of the commentators above expect that this was going to be a 2011 play?

    We thought the play was absolutely superb, the acting was great, the staging innovative. As for the “shouting,” 75% of the time a spectator would be watching the actor from the side or the rear; if they spoke any quieter, they wouldn’t be heard until they faced the spectator.

    We haven’t seen a bad play yet at Timeline. As far as we are concerned, their batting average reamains 1000!

    Phyllis and Lenny Berlin

  30. Steve Norwitz

    A great production of a classic play. I try to see Timeline productions whenever I am in Chicago, and am never disappointed. If I lived there, I’d see every one of them. I admire your ambition and flawless execution.

  31. Mike Downey

    Excellent! I thoroughly enjoyed the production.
    The casting was superb — especially the sheriff.
    I enjoyed how quickly the lines were delivered between the actors, and how the action moved swiftly along with each slamming pf the door. I felt I really was in a “press room” !

  32. Linda Kramer

    Front Page? We couldn’t wait for the first act to be over so we could walk out and not return. The play was terribly disappointing; the directing, the writing, the slamming, the shouting, the talking all at once, we couldn’t even hear what the actors were trying to say and we sat in the second row. There was no common thread, no story line. We’re avid theater goers and subscribers and loved past productions, but this was a frantic, knots in our stomachs, fiasco. Had difficulty figuring out what the play was about but decided at the very end it must be “the prisoner escaping”, by that time we didn’t care. We hated the play from the first 3 minutes on, all 3 of us. Our friends, {8 of them] also subscribers, walked out after the first act 2 weeks before we saw the play. We didn’t even know it until we called to find out their thoughts. It was your worst production, and we hope next season will not disappoint us as we’ve already subscribed. Too bad, many of our friends rely on our recommendations, but this time we had to say “run the other way.”

  33. Cynthia Linton

    Liked the second act much better than the first. Too much shouting and rushing around in the first. Also felt Hilldy was miscast.

  34. Rachel W.

    Loved the set for this production – the costumes and all the props helped to set the scene (down to every last leftover chicken bone) and pull the audience back into the 1920s. The actors were clearly engaged in the performance and were convincing in their roles. Yet I thought the pacing of the production was problematic. Both acts seemed to drag after a certain point and grew a little tiresome towards the end. Also, the initial setup was confusing. I didn’t understand until after the entire first act that the reporters in the press room were from competing publications. If that had been made more apparent at the top of the play, that would have heightened the drama in the first act. As it was performed, the first act read primarily as a lengthy setup for the more action-packed second half. I think that sentiment sums up my overall opinion of The Front Page: fabulous setup yet not quite as satisfying in execution. Still, props to the actors for their immense dedication to their roles – it clearly comes across in their work onstage!

  35. Patricia Beckman

    Had to see the show after reading about it in the Wall Street Journal. Let’s just say it acceded my expectations! Johnson was the best! If I had to fault it and I really can’t, I would say it started a little slow, but the second half more than made up for it.

  36. Peggy Shake

    Absolutely loved it! It was mesmerizing — like listening in on the conversations of reporters. We will definitely sign up for a subscription for next year.

  37. Kathie McCleskey

    We saw the play after the news broke about the phonetapping scandal in Great Britain. It was an interesting perspective. Sounds like Rupert Murdoch’s news empire is stuck in the tricks of the trade from the 20’s. We thoroughly enjoyed the show.

  38. Michael Hollman

    I thought play was boring and dated.

  39. Nat Leighton

    I don’t pay a lot of attention to what critics say. In this case, I saw an ad and remembered seeing the movie and liking it a lot. With Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon, what’s not to like? Though I agree the pacing took some getting used to, all in all I would say the cast did Mathau, Lemmon, et all proud. I had brought my granddaughter (18) and son-in-law and they really liked it as well.

  40. Karen Callaway (full disclosure: retired journalist)


    I kept reading the comments to see if someone—ANYONE!—would see the connection between today’s media “culture” (it’s not just newspapers anymore) and the 1928 press version the play takes to task.

    Thank you, Kathie McCleskey (3rd from the end as I write this)! She accurately notes the parallel of Walter Burns and the Examiner and Rupert Murdoch and his empire: Get the story no matter what the cost, in human terms or monetary.

    However, as this play obviously was decided on long before the hacking scandal (and the more recent revelations about the alleged cozy relationship with Scotland Yard—Sheriff Hartman, anyone?), it should be noted that, true to TimeLine’s mission: The past (alas)
    does inform the present where the so-called “mainstream media” is concerned. A “get-it-first-and-to-hell-with-how” mentality still rules much of what the media does today, in print and on the air. Ditto made up “facts” that purport to be the truth (especially if they are said often enough and loudly enough)—though this aspect certainly has only come into its own (as it were) in the last decade or so.

    A P.S. for those bothered by the running around and shouting: Characters in a farce do this; there is not always linear action or dialogue that’s spoken in modulated tones of voice.

  41. Malou Roth

    I thought the play was terrible. I would have left after 15 mins but as you know, you cant unless you go across the stage.
    Why put this play on. Sure it is old and shows the press in 1927 but what difference is there between what they did and the current press. The racism, misogynism and dumb humor was just offensive. We all know people said those things but why restage THIS play.
    The sound was hard to hear. All the actors talking at once and that creaky chair one of the poker players sat in. It was actually the worst play I have seen in a long long time. Too bad as I dragged friends to it.
    Frost Nixon was fabulous.

  42. Gary B. Blumenshine

    Front Page was a a lively and amusing evening in the theater. Several actors were brilliant, Powers still attractive and vibrant and the Big Boss in a great performance. The smaller character rolls were charming and the play itself seemed curiously contemporary about politics and the news business.

    Theater in the round is not a favorite venue for me thought Sean Graney offered a TIR Pirates of Penzance last year that was a hit though he proposed, with no sucess that I could see, that the audience move around the theater during performance. This did not happen at all. At Front Page many lines were blurred because of fast pacing, directorial choice and the stage set-up. The play was done for proscenium and probably works best in that format if the text and characters are to be heard with fidelity and clarity. Since we saw the production on the last weekend, I suppose sharpness and line characterization had slipped. The play was running when we left Chicago 20 May and when we returned 1July. It was a long run. Congratulations.

    The selections for next year intrigue. We’ll be there.