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  Elizabeth Rex at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Elizabeth Rex

Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue Chicago

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines brings her masterful hand to this contemporary play reimagining Shakespeare's time. On the eve of the beheading of her court favorite and rumored lover, the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth was entertained by a royal command performance by Shakespeare and his company. Upon this obscure historical fact, one of Canada's most acclaimed playwrights, Timothy Findley, imagines this daring and original drama. Longing for distraction, the Queen visits the acting troupe's lodgings, where she finds the actor who plays Shakespeare's leading ladies. In their passionate confrontation, the actor and the Queen come to shocking revelations about sexuality, identity and love.

Thru - Jan 22, 2012



Price: $44-$75

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-595-5600

Running Time: 2hrs, 20mins; one intermission

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  Elizabeth Rex Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"... Nonetheless, one warms throughout to the play's intelligence, passion and moral determination — the stakes for the writer were clearly personal and formidable — and some exceedingly powerful acting in Gaines' deftly forged production mitigates the limitations of the script. In a role she first created some 11 years ago — long before Cate Blanchett essayed her most intriguing highness — the fine Canadian actress Diane D'Aquila is a formidable Queen Elizabeth, at once guttural, riven and wholly cliche-free. It's a strikingly raw and complex performance, ably matched by Sutcliffe, a fellow Canadian star, whose work is similarly complex: warm-blooded, persistent and intensely affecting. The supporting players, including Gudahl as a wry Shakespeare, Torrey Hanson as an aptly irritating Lord Robert Cecil and Brenda Barrie as the queen's bemused but loyal assistant, generously help focus events on the main matter at hand. And, throughout, Gaines uses Daniel Ostling's textured set and Mariann S. Verheyen's unpretentious costumes to paint a careful picture of a moment when the greatest playwright ever to live was just doing the Elizabethan equivalent of hanging out in the bar."
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Chris Jones


Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...The play’s many layers are intriguing even if it at times the whole thing feels a bit too carefully constructed to make certain points. But the many supporting actors here add zest to the scenario, with exceptionally fine turns by Mary Ann Thebus, Roderick Peeples, Matt Farabee and Bradley Armacost."
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Hedy Weiss


Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...Elizabeth Rex, which premiered at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2000, has a strong bent toward presentism, particularly in its obsession with gender roles. The particulars of Ned’s love life are treated by both his fellow actors and the queen as relatively unremarkable topics of conversation—a notion that feels as questionable as Elizabeth’s slumming. But Findley does provide meaty roles, and Barbara Gaines’s cast rips into them with relish. Steven Sutcliffe’s bitter, self-tragedizing Ned makes a fine match for Diane D’Aquila’s Elizabeth, alternately imperious and earthy, even if the script steers them into camp by the second-act climax, when Ned engages Elizabeth in primitive drama therapy."
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Kris Vire


Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"... It’s to director Barbara Gaines’ great credit that the conceit of monarch and fool works as convincingly as it does. Elizabeth and Lowenscroft get into real shouting matches, but it is the practiced actor – even in his desperate illness –who swoops in and out of these collisions, perhaps measuring his impertinence. While it’s also quite something to watch D’Aquila’s impressive queen take such sauciness from a commoner, we glimpse constant reminders that Elizabeth is not herself tonight, that she’s in fact looking for something, whether answers or simply oblivion, amid this motley lot of barn dwellers."
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Lawrence B. Johnson


ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"... Add the subtext that finds Elizabeth skeptical of the new play (Antony and Cleopatra) by Shakespeare because she finds the Egyptian Queen a tad too much like her and Findley’s drama enchants us further. Findley’s fiction is quite believable and sure makes for a compelling story. The actinghere is amazing and the characters are rooted in truth. Kudos to Barbara Gaines for mounting such a refreshingly worth play."
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Tom Williams


Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"... “Elizabeth Rex” is a complex and galvanizing winter offering from Chicago Shakespeare Theater. But this fascinating historical concoction by the late Canadian playwright Timothy Findley demands a loading dock’s worth of suspension of disbelief. Seldom has an ambitious two-act drama, driven by its own diverse and scattershot agenda, been so packed with suppositions—beginning with the title which substitutes “Rex” for “Regina” to fit its theme of the relativity of sexual identity."

Lawrence Bommer


Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Highly Recommended

"...I loved ELIZABETH REX! I was captivated from the first scene, which was the last scene of the pretend play, to the curtain call with the cast Shakes-ing it up! The story intrigues with a behind-the-curtain-below-the-wig innovation. One of my favorite angles was the actual character of William Shakespeare, played by Kevin Gudahl, looming on the fringe of the action. Always present, Gudahl is observing and noting the interactions. This IS the writer’s perspective! We aren’t the center of attention. We leave that to the actors. Writers are spectators of life relaying their impressions later in words. This show was a personally profound theatrical experience for me as a writer and a woman. ELIZABETH REX is a superpower!"
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Katy Walsh


Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...One of the highlights of attending a CST production is how well they utilize the stage with not only fantastic sets, but music (Jenny Giering), sound (Lindsay Jones) wigs and makeup (Melissa Veal) Costumes (Mariann S. Verheyen and lighting (Philip S. Rosenberg). The fight scene co-ordinater, John McFarland, and choreography by Tammy Mader are the crowning touches on a slick production that will grab your interest from the very start and keep it for over two hours. Ms.D’Aquila is a wonderful actress and her scenes with both Gudahl and Sutcliffe are indeed lessons in how an actor works with others."
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Alan Bresloff


Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"... The art of acting is all-consuming, with a constant dichotomy of connection (absorbing the audience in a moment) and distance (you’re not really your character – or are you?). No wonder the Queen seeks out Shakespeare’s troupe: she’s ultimately connected to the nation as she controls everyone’s fate, yet literally no one can touch her without permission. When one gives everything – in politics, in love or in art – what is left? As the smart and all-around superb Elizabeth Rex proves, the answer can be found in one word: more."

Lauren Whalen


   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.


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