Review: James Barrie’s Quartets (ShawChicago)

| April 23, 2013
James Barrie's Quarter - ShawChicago Theater poster        
James Barrie’s Quartets 

Written by James Barrie
Compiled and Directed by Robert Scogin
at Ruth Page Center, 1016 N. Dearborn (map)
thru May 6  |  tickets: $12-$25   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review


Four actors create an engaging triple-play

ShawChicago presents
James Barrie’s Quartets

Review by Katy Walsh 

ShawChicago Theatre Company presents James Barrie’s Quartets.

Steering away from their namesake, ShawChicago closes its season with a tribute to the man behind “Peter Pan.”  For this showcase, Director Robert Scogin has selected three one-act plays to perform by a quartet.  Scogin expertly directs the same four actors playing all the parts.  As is the ShawChicago hallmark, the talented actors are staged as a concert play reading.  No costumes, no scenery, no real movement.  It’s just Playwright James Barrie’s words spoken by the ensemble.  The foursome use their wits in an engaging triple-play. In James Barrie’s Quartets, 4 x 3 = Excellent!   

The Twelve Pound Look premiered in 1910. The content must have been bra-burning scandalous for the Victorian era. Mary Michell (Kate) is the plucky first wife that happens on her remarried ex. The chance encounter has Michell picking apart an arrogant Richard Henzel’s (Harry) career and marriage.  Their banter is a clever and witty dissection of failure making people human.  An assured Michell goes full moxie to crack Henzel’s armored facade.  Although Henzel never drops the gruff exterior, his gestures suggest a vulnerability that Michell pentrated.  The lip trembling Barbara Zahora (Lady Sims) plays the delightfully daft second wife.  Zahora literally gets the last laugh as she musters up some tentative nerve at the very end.      

The New Word is a heartfelt yet appropriately emotionally-distant father-son exchange.  This time Michell plays the teary-eyed mother trying to reunite her son Gary Alexander (Roger) with his father played by Henzel.  A dutiful Alexander is leaving for the war.  His relationship with his father is riddled in misunderstandings.  Over cigars, Alexander and Henzel bond with a sweet yet appropriately masculine comprise.  The content is old-fashioned yet still male stereotyped communique.  The ending is an awwww parental dream.     

Rosalind premiered in 1912 with a timeless theme about aging actresses.  Zahora (Mrs. Page) plays cozy-comfortable blue-collar mother and later youthful, flirty actress.  Her continuous transformation onstage is amazing.  Zahora compellingly describes the bittersweet life of a staged actress.  The poignancy of her words captivate the audience and Alexander, her wannabe beau.  Who is this woman?  Zahora is exceptional.  Michell plays a hilarious landlady.           

In James Barrie’s Quartets, for the price of one show in two hours we see three.  1, 2, 3… Outstanding!  ShawChicago knows how to deliver invaluable entertainment.  

Rating: ★★★

James Barrie’s Quartets continues through May 6th at Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn (map), with performances Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm, Mondays 7pm.  Tickets are $12-$25, and are available by phone (312-587-7930) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)




Gary Alexander, Richard Henzel, Mary Michell, Barbara Zahora

behind the scenes

Robert Scogin (director)


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Category: 2013 Reviews, Katy Walsh, ShawChicago, Staged Readings

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