Chicago Premiere

November 6, 2019 - January 12, 2020

Named one of the “100 plays of the century” by the Royal National Theatre, Githa Sowerby’s rarely produced family drama is a smart and absorbing twist on a woman’s “place” in a male dominated society.

In the industrial north of England in 1912, the patriarch of the Rutherford family has spent decades building a respected glass works company to pass on to his children, without any say from them. Caught between passion, purpose, and expectation, John, Richard, and Janet struggle to break free from an oppressive and narrow-minded father dead set on writing their stories himself. Less entangled by these family expectations and with ambitions to give her son the life he deserves, John’s young wife Mary is determined to upend the cycle, whatever it takes.

Playing on the conventions of the period with wit and creative edge, Rutherford and Son is a play ahead of its time, asking us to question if our “place” in life should be anything but what we ourselves determine it to be.

The estimated run time is 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one intermission.
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Production Team


* Member of Actors Equity Association

# Member of United Scenic Artists

~ Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society

+ TimeLine Company Member

^ TimeLine Associate Artist

§ TimeLine Playwrights Collective


  • Chicago Sun-Times

    November 14, 2019

    “Genuinely interesting. The characters are fully dimensional. The story is compelling … it definitely brings to mind the likes of Henrik Ibsen, whose works this play has been compared to since its initial run. … What distinguishes Rutherford and Son and makes it a worthy revelation is how it portrays the women.

    —Steven Oxman

  • Chicago Tribune

    November 19, 2019

    An exceptionally skillful and provocative exploration of the patriarchal industrialist male … As you’d expect from so smart and talented a director, the show is carefully wrought.”

    —Chris Jones

  • Newcity

    November 25, 2019

    TimeLine has done the theatergoing public a major service by dusting off this century-old play … Rutherford and Son deserves to be remembered, as does its pioneering writer …. Director Mechelle Moe, supported by a superb design and dramaturgical team, extracts every last drop of both dramatic tension and thematic insight from Sowerby’s taut, still-relevant play. … fills the TimeLine stage with meaty characters and gut-level conflict. … Francis Guinan, here making his TimeLine debut, is magnificent.

    —Hugh Iglarsh

  • Chicago Reader

    November 20, 2019

    “Githa Sowerby’s long-neglected drama has a strong cast at TimeLine … For a mostly forgotten 1912 play, written by Githa Sowerby (but presented under a male-sounding pen name at the time), this family drama is surprisingly similar to HBO’s Succession.

    —Marissa Oberlander

  • Stage and Cinema

    November 15, 2019

    RECOMMENDED. “You can’t keep a good play down. … Though ahead of its time with its unsparing portrayal of women defying circumstances and indifference, Rutherford and Son is universal in its protest against untapped talent and wasted worth. … Unlike the R.M.S. Titanic, which foundered in the same year, Rutherford and Son remains unsinkable.

    —Lawrence Bommer

  • Broadway World

    November 19, 2019

    “It’s rare that modern theatergoers can catch the Chicago premiere of a ground-breaking play written more than a century ago, but TimeLine Theatre is offering this chance with its searing production of Githa Sowerby’s Rutherford and Son. … Director Mechelle Moe draws carefully paced, powerful performances from this talented cast … Beyond the historical significance, this progressive play remains relevant for today’s audiences with its fresh dialogue, complex characters, and themes of gender inequality and family dysfunction. It took 107 years to make it to Chicago, but it was worth the wait.

    —Emily McClanathan

  • Windy City Times

    November 16, 2019

    “Under TimeLine director Mechelle Moe, though, the minor-scale tone of this “lost” play never descends into melodramatic parody, but instead turns its very darkness to advantage, forging transcendent moments of defiance pointing the way to hope.

    —Mary Shen Barnidge

  • Picture This Post

    November 14, 2019

    RECOMMENDED. “The senior Rutherford [is] played with magnificent grump by Francis Guinan … Rutherford and Son shines a richly-deserved light on a playwright who spoke the truth to her audience – and to ours as well.

    —Susan Lieberman

  • Chicago Theatre Review

    November 19, 2019

    RECOMMENDED. “A rediscovered dramatic gem … In Mechelle Moe’s intriguing, well-guided production, audiences will discover a little-known play, written at a time when revolution was in the air. It will remind theatergoers of the plays of Chekov, Ibsen and Shaw but, because this play is told from a woman’s point of view, chauvinism is conquered and feminism makes a stand.”

    —Colin Douglas

  • Chicagoland Theater Reviews

    November 15, 2019

    ★★★★ The brilliance of the revival now playing at the TimeLine Theatre validates Sowerby’s drama as one of the major works of the 20th century. … Mechelle Moe has directed the production beautifully, orchestrating her skilled cast so seamlessly that the drama looks inevitable in its conflicts. I didn’t see or hear a single false emotional note, no matter how high passions ran. It is difficult to imagine the play looking or sounding any other way, the ultimate compliment to any production. There is always something special about watching a resurrected play that turns out to be some kind of masterpiece.

    —Dan Zeff


  • Chicago Tribune

    November 1, 2019

    Chicago Tribune‘s Myrna Petlicki interviewed Rutherford and Son actor Jeannie Affelder about playing two characters, her all-time favorite rehearsal moment (shout out to past production To Master The Art!) and her life outside the theater.

    Read the full feature

  • Chicago Reader

    November 6, 2019

    Chicago Reader‘s Kerry Reid explores the roots of an oft-forgotten play in this feature on Rutherford and Son, and how this “tale of a grasping patriarchal capitalist still has resonance today.”

    Read the full feature

  • Chicago Tribune

    November 21, 2019

    Rutherford and Son actor Francis Guinan sat down with the Chicago Tribune to chat about Fran’s work as the tyrannical Rutherford patriarch, his time with Steppenwolf, and his favorite haunts in Chicago and beyond.

    Read the full feature

  • Theatre in Chicago

    December 30, 2019

    Read this Mary Shen Barnidge feature for Theatre in Chicago: “The Great Unrest Continues: 1912 Play Rutherford and Son Reflects a Time Not Unlike Our Own.”

    Read the full feature

Discussions & Events

  • MyLine Preview Pizza Party: RUTHERFORD AND SON
    Thursday, November 7 at 6:45pm

    Pizza, drinks and a special pre-show discussion before RUTHERFORD AND SON.

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  • RUTHERFORD AND SON: Company Member Discussion
    Sunday, December 8 at 4:30pm

    Join us for an informal chat with TimeLine’s Company Members after today’s performance.

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  • Touch Tour and Performance of RUTHERFORD AND SON
    Friday, December 13 at 6:30pm

    Featuring audio description of visuals during the performance and a pre-show touch tour.

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  • RUTHERFORD AND SON: Sunday Scholars Series
    Sunday, December 15 at 4pm

    This one-hour post-show panel discussion features experts on the themes of the play.

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  • RUTHERFORD AND SON: Post-Show Discussion
    Various dates

    Join us for informal post-show discussions with members of the production team and cast.

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  • RUTHERFORD AND SON: PRE-Show Discussion
    Various dates

    Join us for an informal sneak peek into this production with members of the production team.

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  • Open Captioned Performance of RUTHERFORD AND SON
    Various dates

    Featuring a text display of words and sounds heard during the performance.

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