REVIEWS OF PAST PRODUCTIONS
3 STARS - RECOMMENDED
"Searing... a very smart, serpentine production from director Elly Green for Haven Theatre... a smart play about an ugly reality, delivered like a shot and flecked with sharp, comedic dialogue and witty asides, including an attempt to get a corkscrew to work only to realize the wine bottle is a screw-top. Kohl in particular finds a way to give Kate's amiably bossy (sometimes insufferable) personality a human dimension."
"In this searing transcontinental domestic drama by Deborah Bruce, Bea, the mother of two young boys, leaves her husband and family behind in Australia and, for reasons unknown, flies to her sister's home in England, where she blocks their attempts to communicate with her. There, along with the audience, Bea's extended family and friends struggle to reconcile their empathy for her, an autonomous adult pursuing her own dreams, with their horror and resentment over the heartbreak she's caused. "This is cruel, you know," the abandoned father tells Bea (brilliantly played by Abigail Boucher) over Skype. It is, and Haven Theatre's remarkable production, directed by Elly Green, shows the unforgiving ripple effect of that cruelty on everyone involved."
Chicago Theater Beat
"...The Distance is a potential sleeper hit, a dramedy about ordinary people, the decisions they make and the lives they affect. Bruce's characters are the most human I've seen in a long while, and combined with excellent direction and a strong cast, this U.S. premiere is one for the record books. See The Distance, find yourself in the characters, and support the underdog plays that rely on skill instead of spectacle to convey the good, the bad and the ugly of adulthood."
The Fourth Walsh
"The word to describe this show is brilliant! Writing, directing and acting make it a tri-fecta powerhouse!... Playwright Deborah Bruce masterfully spins a vibrant relational tapestry... The dialogue feels like an organic frenzy of judgment and affection and denial... This show is a classic in the makings.... Bruce created real characters grounded in humanity. And under the skillful direction of Elly Green, we are in the room. We pick sides. We judge. We listen. We understand."
LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC
4 STARS (out of 4) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
“"Last Train to Nibroc" is the unexpected theater gem of the summer… an exquisitely acted and generally gorgeous little show that has shown up at Theater Wit this month, and that deserves to be a sleeper hit of the Chicago summer… Haven Theatre and the talented and craftful director Jason Gerace, working with the fine Chicago actors Amanda Drinkall and Mike Tepeli… what makes the writing in this play so seductive is the way that Hutton forges such strong but needy and yet inquisitive characters, and how she makes them emblematic of the sweeping change that beset America in the 1940s. In reaching for those bigger social observations, she never compromises their individuality nor their humanity… There is not a whiff of sentimentality about Drinkall and Tepeli's work, and yet you find yourself intimately involved with their dreams and frustrations and pulling for their relationship, even though the evidence clearly shows that it would be fraught… Hutton is not a well-known nor a trendy nor an oft-produced playwright in Chicago and this production offers a deep sense of what we have missed. That would be not so evident, though, without such vivid and vulnerable performances from these two actors.”
“Under the perfectly understated direction of Jason Gerace, Drinkall and Tepeli (who were such a memorable pairing in Gerace’s hit production of “Great Expectations” at Strawdog Theatre a few seasons back) are luminous and wholly beguiling. And they generate just enough ache and mutual agitation, as well as admiration, to suggest their growing love for each other… [Hutton] knows how people talk. And while you can hear a bit of Horton Foote, Alfred Uhry and Thornton Wilder in “Nibroc,” her stylish yet unaffected voice is very much her own. This production will leave you wishing to hear a great deal more of it.”
Time Out Chicago
3 STARS - RECOMMENDED
“Quietly affecting… It's a particularly fascinating exercise in subtlety for Drinkall, a radiant and engaging stage personality who here plays a young woman whose conflicts and complexities are very much internalized. Off course from a traditional relationship and finding her own professional way, May's reserved sense of humor and fire burns just as intensely as Drinkall's other characters; what she withholds is just as interesting as what she plays… hits all the right pangs.”
Windy City Times
“This Chicago Premiere owes its success to the performances of Mike Tepeli and Amanda Drinkall, assisted by Jason Gerace's direction and Kathy Logelin's dialect instruction. Together, they immerse us so thoroughly in a universe before television and internet made everybody a know-it-all… Come see for yourself why sophisticated urban audiences were so entranced in 1999 by Hutton's wholesome hillfolk that they demanded she write two more plays about them.”
Mary Shen Barnidge
Chicago Theatre Beat
3.5 STARS (out of 4) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
“Haven Theatre’s lovely production of a short but sweet bit of nostalgia hits all the right notes: from the lovingly penned source material to the strong production values, to the shining talents of actors Amanda Drinkall and Mike Tepeli. Last Train to Nibroc is, without a doubt, the most charming show I’ve seen all summer… Director Jason Gerace doesn’t try to make the play anything more than it is; rather, he embraces its uncomplicatedness and romance… Drinkall brings a feisty righteousness to May, who matures throughout the play without losing her strong sense of self. Tepeli’s smile could power up a light board, and his Raleigh has an easy energy and compelling wit. Watching these two play together is a most pleasing way to spend 90 minutes… Last Train to Nibroc is a sweet, pleasant reminder that two dynamic actors and a lovely script is all one needs for a wonderful audience experience. It’s nice to know these plays still exist.”
HOT GEORGIA SUNDAY
"...the engaging little sleeper of a show from the rising Haven Theatre Company... a steamy play with a real pulse of small-town life... I found that these characters, and these performances, have stuck with me, their stories carefully charted by actors who care and a sympathetic director, all adding up to a sultry (and frequently funny tale) of little feminist struggles in a town where the asphalt sticks to your toes."
Time Out Chicago
"Director Marti Lyons and her production team have shrewdly kept things simple: no furniture, no props, minimal sound (effectively created by Christopher Kriz)—all to emphasize the details in those monologues... Because we in the audience are witness to—in dialogue with, really—the characters as they discover those not-so-pretty things in themselves, they rise above typical caricature of Southern sex and hypocrisy... it takes strong acting to pull off this structure of some dozen or so monologues, and these performers, especially the family trio, manage those moments—and everything else—superbly, mining for both pathos and comedy."
DON'T GO GENTLE
"...sprightly... Director Cody Estle's production for Haven Theatre is first-class all the way, with top-of-the-line performances and a gorgeous set from Jeffrey D. Kmiec full of dark woods and leather sofas and leaded-glass windows."
"...once Belber ignites his plot and Estle lets his superlative cast dig into the script’s meaty subtext, the emotional pyrotechnics are dazzling."