★★★★★ Theater is like a great recipe in the kitchen coming together , and the new, World Premiere, that opened in tiny Writers Theatre, in Glencoe, could be called a “chef’s delight”. The title is “Days Like Today” and it has many of Chicago’s finest talents in this particular kitchen. The book is by Laura Eason ( based on the writings of Charles L. Mee )with the music and lyrics by Alan Schmuckler. It is a musical, but not what is called “Musical Theater”; more of a “Chamber Musical”- a small, intimate story telling experience with music to make the points being expressed. Writers Theatre in its current home- Tudor, is the perfect space to house this type of show as the audience is very close to the action, almost feeling that they could easily be drawn to the action.
All the pieces of this pie are in lace. A superb set by Scott Bradley that makes us feel that we are indeed at the beach home ( sort of like a Martha’s Vineyard location) for a wedding. Tessa ( the adorable Emily Berman) is bright and in love. Her parents, Frank ( deftly handled by Jonathan Weir) and Maria ( the always reliable Susie McMonagle) are what one might call a very dysfunctional family. Frank is Gay and Maria is promiscuous. Tessa was what they call their pleasant accident and both are committed to her happiness.
On this the day of Tessa’s wedding to Arnaud ( Jerod Zimmerman), he tells her that he cannot go through with it and leaves her., she wanders about causing her parents, and their lovers, Francois ( Jeff Parker)/Maria’s and Edmund ( Stephen Schelihardt in a role that was written for him)/Frank’s to worry about what happens next. During Tessa’s night of horror, she meets a young man, James ( a superb character portrayed by the comical Will Mobley) and what we witness is a year in the lives of these people as played in two divine acts, directed to perfection by Michael Halberstam with choreography by Tommy Rapley. If this cast of technical people is not enough, add to this recipe the Doug Peck as Musical director and you can see why this recipe is so absolutely sumptuous!
There are two acts filled with music, that while sun, almost seems as if it is spoken and completes the story-telling experience. these are not songs that you will hum on the way home. In fact, you may not recall much of the songs at all, except that they were fitting and made the experience one that kept your interest from start to finish. The heart of the story is about sustaining a relationship with another during good times and bad. We all have what are called “comfort zones” and most people tend to stay only in those zones. As we meet these characters, we find that there are lots of hidden secrets that slowly are unveiled. They all have “their” comfort zones, but by the time we get to the end, they have stepped out of those zones and changed the thought process so they can get out of their own way and live the life they should have.
I will not spoil your experience by telling you more than you need to know about this breath taking, lovingly written show, except to tell you that the enchanting music will make you feel special and the words that Schmuckler has written are very Sondheim ish in his magical use of words to get the story out to the audience. Eason’s book is another well written play that make sus care for Tessa, her father, her mother and the others ( oh, well- not all the others). Writers is the perfect space for this piece and I am in hopes that many of you will find a way to fit this into your busy schedules. I am not sure if this one can be extended as the building will soon be demolished to make way for the new Writers Theatre stages.
“Days Like Today” will continue at Writers Theatre located at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe ( just off Green Bay Rod) through July 13th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.
There are some selected 2 p.m. matinees on Wednesdays.
Tickets range from $35-$75 ( a true value for theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org
Plenty of free parking.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Days Like Today