The Mark of Zorro

Sep 27 – Nov 23, 2008

The Jeff-recommended, hit production returns in a remount
at Theatre Building Chicago – 1225 W. Belmont Avenue!

TBC’s box office: 773.327.5252 or
or Ticketmaster: 312.902.1500 or

“Zesty, playfully romantic stage adaptation… action-packed, endlessly ingenious, deliciously tongue-in-cheek staging… power-packed fight choreography… thanks to Lifeline, I am a complete Zorro convert.”  —Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Even by Lifeline’s lofty standards… ‘The Mark of Zorro’ is an uncommonly good time”  —Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Discover the original Zorro. His identity is a mystery, but his heroism and sense of justice are as real as his love for the beautiful Lolita. But if he is to save her from ruin, he must inspire the town’s privileged young caballeros to join him in his fight against corruption. Filled with sword-fighting thrills, this adventurous caper will captivate us with its tale of legendary heroism, and inspire us to act in the face of injustice.

Based on the legendary novel by Johnston McCulley 
Adapted by Katie McLean 
Directed by Dorothy Milne

$15 Preview matinee: Saturday September 27, 2008 at 4:00pm
Opens: September 27, 2008 at 8:00pm
Closes: November 23, 2008

Thursdays and Fridays at 7:15pm
Saturdays at 4:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 4:00pm

Tickets: $30
(Group, Student and Senior discounts available)

TBC’s box office: 773.327.5252 or
or Ticketmaster: 312.902.1500 or

  • Rom Barkhordar (Don Carlos Pulido, Dealer: Sep 27 - Oct 5)

    Rom is very happy to be returning to The Mark of Zorro after a brief stint as Don Carlos at Lifeline Theatre last summer. He was also seen last spring in Around the World in 80 Days at The Lookingglass Theatre, written and directed by Laura Eason.

  • B. Diego Colon (Ensemble)

    Diego is truly excited to be making his Lifeline Theatre debut with The Mark of Zorro. He was last seen in Berlin to Broadway with The Loop Players. Past roles for include Superdog in the Chicago Childrens Theatre Production of Go Dog, Go! Diego is an ensemble member of One theatre Company since its creation and he has appeared as Tito Merelli in Lend me a Tenor, and Jimmy Powers in City of Angels for them.

  • Bryan DiLoreto (Ensemble)

    Bryan makes his Lifleline Theater debut with The Mark of Zorro. He was last seen in Othello at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. He is recent graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University where he received his BFA in Acting.

  • James Elly (Don Diego Vega)

    James is thrilled to be working with Lifeline Theatre for the first time. A graduate of Northwestern University, James has performed all over Chicago for the past seven years. His Chicago credits include Our Enemiesat Silk Road Theater Project; Phedre at Court Theater; World Set Free at Steppenwolf; The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer at Next Theater; Catch-22 at Steep Theater; Twelfth Night at Noble Fool; and Detective Story at Strawdog. Next spring, James will be performing in Silk Road’s production of Pangs of the Messiah.

  • Eric Haugen (Don Alejandro Vega, Magistrado)

    Eric started in Chicago with The Practical Theatre Company. Previous Lifeline credits include roles in Pride and PrejudiceThe Lion, the Witch and the WardrobePurloined Poe and Servant of Two Masters.

  • Tom Hickey (Don Carlos Pulido, Dealer: Oct 10 - Nov 23)

    Tom is a member of Strawdog Theatre Company where he has appeared in AristocratsMarathon ’33Three SistersDetective Story, and Julius Caesar, amongst other productions. Other theatre companies he has worked with include Seanachaí (Scenes from the Big Picture), Wildclaw (The Great God Pan), Silk Road Theatre Project (Back of the Throat), Steep Theatre (Book of Days), The House Theatre (Valentine Victorious), Visions and Voices ([the] Violent Sex), Lakeside Shakespeare, Live Bait and Stage Left.

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Captain Ramon)

    Robert is a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble and is delighted to appear in his tenth production on this stage. Some past favorites include The Talisman RingThe Killer AngelsThe Return of the King, and Around the World in 80 Days (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Supporting Actor-Play and Ensemble). Other Chicago-area credits include work with Seanachaí Theatre Co., Greasy Joan & Co., Strawdog Theatre, the Hypocrites, City Lit, Circle Theatre, Theatre at the Center, New American Theater, Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

  • John Luzar (Sergeant Gonzalez)

    John is glad to be on board with the Lifeline crew for this production of The Mark of Zorro. He has recently appeared in Ren Faire! A Fistful of Ducats (Factory Theater), Fatboy (A Red Orchid) and Men of Steel(Theatre Wit). Other favorites include The Lion in Winter (TimeLine), and Marathon ‘33 (Strawdog), as well as work with The New York International Fringe Festival, Steep, Metropolis, Blindfaith, Boxer Rebellion, Seanachaí, Adventure Stage Chicago, Chicago Jewish Theatre, The Bailiwick and Disposable Theatre.

  • Jennifer Munoz (Ensemble)

    Jennifer is appearing for the first time at Lifeline Theatre. Jennifer recently moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico and now lives in Rogers Park. Previous dance/stage experience includes 5 years of ballet classes and 1 year of Salsa dancing. By day, Jennifer is a Creative Genius with the Apple Store in Skokie. Currently, Jennifer is busy in the production of a video podcast.

  • Christina Nieves (Lolita Pulido)

    Christina is a native of South Florida and a recent graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University. Christina is thrilled to add Lifeline to her growing list of professional credits here in Chicago. This summer, Christina had the opportunity to participate in the Goodman Theatre’s biennial Latino Theatre Festival, where she understudied in the Chicago Children’s Theatre production of Esperanza Rising, directed by Henry Godinez, and played the part of Natalia in the staged reading of Little Certainities, directed by Lisa Portes. While training at The Theatre School, Christina enjoyed such roles as Laertes in Hamlet, Gabriela in References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, Ana Hernandez in Living Out, and Antigone in Jean Anouilh’s Antigone.

  • Derek Peruo (Ensemble)

    Derek is a Recognized Actor/Combatant by the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) and is a member of Chicago Stunt Works, a Chicago-based team of stunt performers for film and television. He recently choreographed violence for A Place with the Pigs, and was Assistant Fight Director for Carmen at Chamber Opera Chicago. Derek appeared on stage as Papacacia in Kosi Dasa and as Basilio in Life’s A Dream, both at DePaul University. He also played Oscar in The Lady From Dubuque, Gaston in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Arkas in Iphigenia In Tauris, the Prosecuting Attorney in Machinal and Fred Whitmarsh in Years Ago. Film credits include Table StakesHobo Magic: The Taylor Horner StoryUso Dakara (Because It’s a Lie) and Upper Eastern Philosophy. Derek received his B.F.A. in acting from DePaul University. He is originally from New York City, where he graduated from the School of Performing Arts at LaGuardia High School with four awards for Excellence and Achievement in Drama. He has appeared off-Broadway as Doofus in the premiere production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Snow Angel, performed at HERE Arts Center in New York.

  • Isabel Quintero (Dona Catalina Pulido)

    Isabel most recently appeared in the Goodman’s Latino Theatre Festival 2008 where she played the Mother in Laura Crotte’s musical adaptation of Lorca’s Blood Wedding, and understudied roles in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Esperanza Rising. Ms. Quintero has proudly worked with Teatro Vista, Teatro Luna, Congo Square, Adventure Stage, New Leaf, Halcyon and Infamous Commonwealth Theatres. Ms. Quintero worked as a radio announcer for 8 years in both English and Spanish and had the #1 rated morning show program in South Florida. She continues to work as a commercial voiceover artist, and occasionally appears on television and film.

  • Trevor Reusch (Ensemble)

    Trevor is very excited to be making his Lifeline debut in The Mark of Zorro. He has been seen around Chicago in Steppenwolf’s Good Boys and True, and also in The Chicago Children’s Theater production of Go, Dog, Go!Trevor just recently graduated in May from The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University with a BFA.

  • Christopher M. Walsh (Governor, Fray Felipe)

    Christopher is very excited to be in his first show with Lifeline. His most recent acting credits include Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revengewith BackStage Theatre, Journey’s End with Griffin Theatre, Chalk with The Right Brain Project and The Hound of the Baskervilles at City Lit. Chris has acted with or provided fight choreography for several Chicago companies including Circle Theatre, the Building Stage, and Defiant Theatre. He studied acting and stage combat at Columbia College Chicago.

  • Eduardo Garcia (Understudy)

    Eduardo is delighted to make his Chicago debut in his first show with Lifeline Theatre. He recently graduated last May with a BFA from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and was last seen in the Dept. of Theater’s production of A Chorus Line. His other credits include Michael (Dancing at Lughnasa), and Silvius (As You Like It).

  • Jonathan Helvey (Understudy)

    Jonathan is thrilled to be working with Lifeline Theatre for the first time on The Mark of Zorro. Jonathan is a third year undergrad at Chicago College of Performing Arts were he is working towards his BFA in Acting. He was recently seen as Phil in The Shape of Things at Rodgers Park Theatre Company, Anibal in Cloud Tectonics at Transit 5, and is currently in Henry V at CCPA. Jonathan is also a graduate of the Acting Certificate Program at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

  • Nilsa Reyna (Understudy)

    Nilsa is the Artistic Director of Chicago Fusion Theatre. She recently directed the company’s inaugural production of Hugging the Shoulder. Select stage credits include: bobrauschenbergamerica (Chicago Fusion Theatre), The Massacre (Halcyon Theatre), A Humechanical Nightmare(Lucid Street Theatre), The Seagull (GroundUp Theatre), Operation Infiltration (Factory Theater), Escanaba in da Moonlight (Circle Theatre), Big Love (The Mill), The Maria Chronicles (Goodman Theatre Latino Festival), Anna in the Tropics (Victory Gardens Theater), Generic Latina (Teatro Luna) and The Wedding Album of Sandy Benito’s Wedding (Collaboraction Sketchbook). Also, a Teaching Artist, she works with various schools in Chicago and in the surrounding suburbs.

  • Katie McLean (Adaptor)

    Katie has been a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2006. She directed Johnny Tremain for the 2005-2006 MainStage season and The Cricket in Times Square for Lifeline’s KidSeries in 2003. As an actor, she has appeared in Talking It OverCrossing CaliforniaThe True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!Gaudy NightTrust Me On ThisFar From the Madding CrowdWhose Body?Cooking With Lard, and Bongo Larry and Two Bad Bears. In 2007 she also became a founding ensemble member with Black Sheep Productions. A native of upstate New York, she has been in Chicago since 1993 and worked on productions with BlindFaith, the Hypocrites, Bailiwick Repertory (including now then again, a Jeff Citation winner for Best New Play in 2000), Greasy Joan & Co., Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, Who Threw That Ham?, and Zebra Crossing. The Mark of Zorro is Katie’s first adaptation.

  • Dorothy Milne (Director)

    Dorothy is a Lifeline ensemble member and has been Artistic Director since 1999. She has directed numerous shows here including Around the World in 80 DaysJane EyreGaudy NightA Room with a View and (earlier this season) Talking It Over. Other Chicago credits include Griffin Theatre’s Stardust and multiple shows with the solo-performance collective Sweat Girls, as writer and performer. Dorothy is also one of the organizers of the annual Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest. Come join us at the Fest for free fun, August 23-24.

  • Erica Foster (Stage Manager)

    Erica has stage managed numerous productions at Lifeline including Cat’s CradleThe Killer AngelsAround the World in 80 DaysJohnny TremainThe Talisman Ring and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. Erica has also been working as the Operations Manager at Lifeline for the past two seasons.

  • Jasmin Cardenas (Choreographer/Assistant Director)

    Jasmin is excited to see Zorro moving forward… On Guard! Since we opened at Lifeline, Jasmin has been busy. For The Goodman Latino Theater Festival’s Esperanza Rising she was choreographer and understudy. Last spring she was Maricela in The Blue House that world premiered at Adventure Stage Chicago. During the summer she also taught at Lifeline’s Summer Theater Camp. Currently, Jasmin is working on her one woman show, Niña Buena?. She has trained and danced professionally with Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater and performed with Lifeline Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Collaboraction, Pegasus Players, Teatro Luna and Aguijon Theater, to name a few.

  • Geoff Coates (Fight Choreographer)

    Geoff is a freelance Fight Director with over 17 years of experience in Chicago Theatre. He is thrilled to return to Lifeline Theatre, previously designing Gaudy NightBrave Potatoes, and The Talisman Ring, for which he achieved the 2006 Jeff Citation in Fight Design. Geoff is also honored to have designed for Factory Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and Drury Lane Oakbrook. Other awards include 2005 Jeff Citation in Fight Direction for Defiant Theatre’s Action Movie: The Play and 2005 After Dark Award in Fight Direction for Infamous Commonwealth’s The Kentucky Cycle.

  • Victoria DeIorio (Original Music/Sound Designer)

    Victoria is an ensemble member at Lifeline Theatre and has designed sound for many shows including The Island of Dr. Moreau (Jeff Award – Non Equity), The Velveteen RabbitA Room with a ViewGaudy Night(Jeff Nomination), The Talisman RingThe Sirens of TitanA Long Way from ChicagoStrong PoisonThe Shadow (Jeff Citation), Far From the Madding Crowd, and Around the World in 80 Days (Jeff Citation). She also directed last season’s KidSeries production of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!. Victoria has worked with many Chicago and Regional theatre including Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Victory Gardens, Milwaukee Shakespeare, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, LA Theatre Works, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, The Next Theatre, Remy Bumppo, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, and other storefront theatres in Chicago. Her Off-Broadway work includes Steppenwolf’s The Bluest Eye at the Duke Theatre, and Ophelia at the Connelly. Victoria was nominated for 5, and received 3 Jeff Awards – NE, and 2 After Dark Awards. Victoria is the head of Sound Design at Depaul University.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic and Props Designer)

    Alan is a Lifeline ensemble member. The Mark of Zorro proves, after careful counting, his 34th scenic and prop design for Lifeline MainStage and KidSeries. When not designing scenery or props he does the occasional lighting design (Killer AngelsThe Talisman Ring [2005]) or adaptation (Trust Me on ThisCrossing CaliforniaBongo Larry & Two Bad BearsSophie’s Masterpiece). Away from Lifeline just after the first of the year he designed Sunday on the Rocks at Bailiwick (directed by Lifeline ensemble member Toy DeIorio) and The End for Black Sheep Productions at the Royal George. Among current projects is Creature Adventure at Dollywood featuring Chris and Martin Kratt (of Zobomafooand Kratts’ Creatures on PBS) which opens in June.

  • Branimira Ivanova (Costume Designer)

    Branimira is a graduate of the University of Connecticut – MFA Costume Design and the International Academy of Design and Technology- BFA in Fashion Design. The Mark of Zorro is her second collaboration with Lifeline Theatre after recently designing Talking it Over. She has worked with Citylit Theare, Emerald City Theatre, The Gift Theatre, Pegasus Players, Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, Bailiwick Repertory, Black Sheep Productions, and dance companies- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, Breakbone Dance Company and Thodos Dance Company. Out of state she has worked with Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival (MA) and Miniature Theatre of Chester (MA). Branimira is a recipient of Certificate for Excellence in Theatre Design by USITT in 2007. Her work was part of the United States National Exhibit at the Prague Quadrennial World Stage Expo in Prague 2007.

  • John Sanchez (Lighting Designer)

    John is happy to be back with Lifeline Theatre, where past shows include The ShadowSirens of TitanJohnny Tremain, and A Room With a View, along with several children’s shows. In the past he has worked with the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and many other theatre and dance companies. Currently he is the master electrician/ designer for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

  • Charlie Cascino (Assistant Fight Choreographer)

    Charlie has been an actor and fight director here in Chicago for a number of years. She has directed violence for a great number of productions at her Alma Mater, Columbia College Chicago, including Little FoxesThe House of Bernada AlbaThe Fruits of PrideGhostsArabian Nights, and several others. She has also assisted David Woolley with the college productons of Ubu RoiThe Changeling, and Woyczek, as well as assisting him with the professional productions of Shakespeare’s Othello at Writers’ Theatre and John Clancy’s Fatboy at A Red Orchid. Charlie is an Advanced Actor/Combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors.

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Dialect Coach)

    Elise is a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble and will direct Lifeline’s upcoming winter production of Mariette in Ecstasy. She has coached dialects for Lifeline’s productions of The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Island of Dr. MoreauThe Piano TunerJohnny TremainThe Killer AngelsThe Shadow and Trust Me on This. Other dialect coaching projects include The Birthday Party (Signal Ensemble); Angels in AmericaEquus and Henry V(the Hypocrites); and A Christmas CarolTo Kill a Mocking Bird and Cabaret (Metropolis Theatre).

  • Susan McClelland (Dramaturg)

    Susan most recently worked as Dramaturg for the Infamous Commonwealth Theatre’s production of Keely and Du. She joins the Chicago theatre community from New Jersey where roles included Li’l Bit in How I Learned to Drive, Ann in All My Sons, Emily in Our Town, and Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Susan has a theatre degree from New York University and a Master’s in Library Science from Rutgers University. Currently, she works full time as a stay at home mom with daughter, Eliza.

  • Cortney Hurley (Production Manager)

    Cortney is excited to be working with Lifeline Theatre again for the 07/08 season. Previous and current production management positions include Ellen Under Glass for the House Theatre of Chicago; One False Note with Plasticene; Creole with InFusion Theatre; Marathon ’33A Lie of the Mind, and Aristocrats with Strawdog Theatre, where she is the mainstage production manager; as well as the Assistant Production Manager at Theater on the Lake for the last 4 years. During the school year Cortney can be found at St. Scholastica Academy, where she has been the resident designer (scenery and lighting) and technical theatre instructor/director for the last nine years.

From the Chicago Sun-Times

‘Zorro’ leaves bold mark with breathtaking antics
May 13, 2008
By Hedy Weiss

Confession: When I walked into Lifeline Theatre on Sunday to see “The Mark of Zorro,” all I knew about that masked man dubbed “The Curse of Capistrano” was what I recalled of the 1940 film version starring Tyrone Power (seen on some late-night movie channel) and my few glimpses of the Disney television series of the late 1950s that my brother used to watch on an old Zenith.

Now, thanks to Lifeline, I am a complete Zorro convert. Credit Katie McLean’s zesty, playfully romantic stage adaptation of the 1919 pulp fiction classic by Illinois-born Johnston McCulley; director Dorothy Milne’s action-packed, endlessly ingenious, deliciously tongue-in-cheek staging; Alan Donahue’s handsome mission-style architectural set, and Geoff Coates, whose power-packed fight choreography is performed just inches from the audience.

Above all, credit James Elly, who plays Don Diego Vega (aka Zorro), the aristocratic young Robin Hood of colonial era California. In a literally breathtaking performance, the small, agile actor is so fleet, graceful and droll you might easily mistake him for a Spanish Mikhail Baryshnikov. And it’s difficult to decide whether he is better as the spoiled, cowardly, perpetually “fatigued” rich boy or the dashing, confident, ever- humane freedom fighter.

McLean has done a fine job of balancing the two major threads of the Zorro story. First, there is the swordplay-filled adventure tale set in motion by the exploits of a conscience-stricken young aristocrat who rebels in his own supremely flamboyant (yet masked) way against the cruelty and injustice of the Spanish governor and his army. Then there is the love story that wittily unites two strong-willed, demanding young lovers, one of whom must cloak his true identity, while the other, Lolita (Rosa de Guindos, a Madrid-bred beauty with easy charm), must be boldly frank.

Milne, in collaboration with Donahue, bravura costume designer Branamira Ivanova, light man John Sanchez and sound master Victoria DeIorio, conjures rollicking horse rides, rousing brawls, daredevil chases and a couple of “big kiss” scenes as if on a full film set.

Kudos, too, to Robert Kauzlaric as Zorro’s heinous rival; Don Bender as Zorro’s in-the-dark dad; Larry Baldacci and Allison Cain as Lolita’s status-conscious parents, and a cast “of thousands” that numbers just 13.

Four stars for “Z.”



From the Chicago Tribune

In this zesty ‘Zorro,’ the secret weapon is James Elly
May 15, 2008
By Chris Jones

The joint has barely enough room to swing a rapier. And it could never have accommodated the egos, spittle or fiscal demands of Tyrone Power or Douglas Fairbanks. But when it comes to swashbuckling literary adaptations, Lifeline Theatre has the corner on the retro market.

Even by Lifeline’s lofty standards for pulpy, old-fashioned theatrical amusement, “The Mark of Zorro” is an uncommonly good time for anybody older than 10.

Created by Johnston McCulley in 1919, this fictional masked avenger of old Spanish California is a combination of Robin Hood, Superman and the Zapatistas. No wonder Hollywood and television were early converts to the charms of the so-called “Curse of the Capistrano” – and the prolific McCulley obliged by penning more than 60 Zorro stories.

For this new live “Mark,” Katie McLean has penned an original adaptation of the 1920 novel, wherein Senor Z wages war against an oppressive governor and his various brutish henchmen. Zorro has his Clark Kent side. In his quieter moments, he masquerades as the foppish scion of a wealthy ranchero, only to burst into life when he dons his signature black mask.

The secret weapon in Dorothy Milne’s production is a young actor named James Elly, who manages to convince as both fop and superhero. Elly isn’t offstage for more than a matter of seconds all night long – and he has to survive more sword fights than even the most accomplished Shakespearean. It’s a killer performance – literally and righteously -and it charms the audience.

And there’s a whole lot more to admire.

Milne and McLean get the tone exactly right – firmly tongue-in-cheek but sufficiently respectful of the adventure tradition that even the most cynical adolescent in the audience would be able to cling on to some sense of romantic decorum.

And even though the stage is tiny, Alan Donahue has built an amazingly inventive set that allows Zorro to repel all borders from rooftops, walls, windows and horses.

In one spectacular coup de theater, Elly engages in a gloriously entertaining sword fight while swinging happily from a chandelier.

Zorro eventually woos his love, Lolita, of course, played by the charming Rosa de Guindos, a genuine Spaniard to boot. The show would probably have been even better with a few minutes off the running time.

And don’t show up expecting profound literature or subtle drama—this is the stuff of over-ripe accents, grand gestures and exuberant theatricality.

But for a little box by the “L” tracks to contain 13 performers all demonstrably dedicated to the unpretentious, can-do provision of such timeless pleasures?

Only in this town, folks.



From Time Out Chicago

May 22, 2008
By Zac Thompson

Any new adaptation of McCulley’s popular adventure stories – about a masked avenger defending the weak from brutish soldiers and greedy politicians in 19th-century California – must contend with the string of celluloid Zorros who have swashbuckled their way into the popular consciousness. Lifeline’s boisterous, inventive production, from McLean’s brisk adaptation of the original novel, neither ignores these past Zorros (a line extending from Douglas Fairbanks to Antonio Banderas) nor apes them.

Milne’s staging, despite its relatively small scale, has many of the elements that make Zorro so exciting onscreen: swelling music to underscore the romantic scenes, kinetic sword fights (skillfully choreographed by Geoff Coates) and a breathtaking chase scene in which a swinging light fixture stands in for Zorro’s steed (it shouldn’t work but somehow does). The director distinguishes herself from earlier handlers of the material, however, by showing a playful awareness of the story’s inherent silliness: Spanish accents are exaggerated, wooing scenes call to mind telenovelas, and the gulf between Zorro and his milquetoast alter ego is ludicrously vast.

That the show manages to maintain its cheeky air without slipping into camp or parody is a credit to the cast, especially James Elly who plays the man behind the mask with tongue-in-cheek élan. Equally deft with a sword and a quip (and employing an accent somewhere between Speedy Gonzales and Cousin Balki), Elly’s Zorro pays tribute to such dashing Z-men as Fairbanks and Guy Williams while winkingly undercutting them.



From Windy City Times

May 21, 2008
By Mary Shen Barnidge

Amid the plethora of knockoffs, parodies and spoofs based on Johnston McCulley’s classic swashbuckler, it is too easy to overlook the social issues – specifically, the call for citizens to unite in rebellion against corrupt leaders – at the roots of its conflict. Our setting might be Spanish California circa 1800, but the masked bandit who rides by night to thwart and humiliate the officers of a self-serving governor is as much a crusader for justice as any modern reformer.

McCulley draws on many of his literary genre’s predecessors in populating his arena (the lineage of his nobly-born, but morally dissolute, Captain Ramón, for example, can be traced to 1651 and Calderón’s Mayor Of Zalamea), and his story’s original structure as a serial could easily reduce the action to a Road-Runner series of chase-and-clash skirmishes. But Katie McLean’s adaptation progresses with an efficiency that has us eagerly anticipating each new event, while Dorothy Milne’s direction sets a brisk, but never hurried, pace that propels us along at a tempo where never a second is wasted in self-conscious sniggering.

This principle also applies to the actors. Playing this material demands total immersion into each character’s individual truth – even when occupying a personality for barely a few minutes, as Lifeline’s trademark multiple-casting requires. But the ensemble for this production is at the top of its form, both physically and mentally, whether crossing blades, courting sweethearts or riding to the rescue of the intrepid hero. (That’s right – the spectacle includes a thrilling pursuit on horseback, and you’ll have to see for yourself how Milne and award-winning fight choreographer Geoff Coates pull it off on a stage measuring a mere 28 feet by 30 feet.)

James Elly exhibits appropriate panache as the gallant with the angelic face and the lightning rapier, as does Rosa de Guindos (sporting a genuine Madrileño accent) as his valiant lady, and Larry Baldacci and Don Bender as their unwitting elders, along with an assortment of villains, notably Robert Kauzlaric doing his reptilian turn as the lecherous Captain and a bullicioso-voiced Manny Tamayo in the role of the boastful Sgt. Gonzales. So dazzling is the agility displayed by the 13-member cast as they scramble, slink and swarm over Alan Donahue’s sleepy desert pueblo, their athletic exuberance enhanced by Victoria DeIorio’s Andulusian incidental music, that when it wraps up after a breathless two hours (with one intermission), the exhilaration is like an explosion a fresh-air factory.



From Chicago Free Press

May 21, 2008
By Web Behrens

Summer 2008 is, by apparent Hollywood decree, the summer of the superhero: Iron Man’s already on screen, with Batman, the Hulk and Hellboy all on tap. Plugging into this zeitgeist with aplomb, Lifeline Theatre delivers a rousing show, “The Mark of Zorro,’ in which one can easily discover the roots of today’s superheroes’ family tree.

American pop culture has a love affair with lighthearted action-oriented fare, and this witty show – full of clashing swords and laugh-out-loud banter – could easily capture a wide-ranging audience. If you’ve got daughters, sons, nieces or nephews in your life, here’s your chance to show them that live theater can be just as much fun as the movies. Or, at least, almost – and all without multi-million-dollar special effects.

Lifeline ensemble member Katie McLean delivers a smart adaptation of the original Zorro tale (written by pulp author Johnston McCulley, native of nearby Ottawa, Illinois), jumping into the story in medias res: Zorro, a sort of Robin Hood of early 19th-century southern California, has already established himself as a rogue protector of powerless citizens – peasants and caballeros alike – who are being exploited by a greedy governor and his soldiers.

McLean’s wink-wink script gets a good deal of mileage out of immediately making the audience privy to Zorro’s secret identity. Don Diego Vega (like Bruce Wayne, a hero clearly inspired by him) is the richest lad in the land but affects an inept diffidence. Watching actor James Elly negotiate Don Diego’s deception is a true joy: Elly lends a certain charm to one persona’s dandified cowardice, while his black-clad vigilante is never less than a confident stud. (Any IML visitors seeking a break from their play parties this weekend should head north to Rogers Park to enjoy all the butch boot-clad actors on the Lifeline stage.)

Director Dorothy Milne lends the proceedings the right light touch, giving plenty of play to the comedic tension inherent in the bizarre love triangle, which pits Don Diego against himself for the affections of Lolita, played with appropriate feist by Rosa de Guindos. (Another partial descendant of Zorro’s, Superman/Clark Kent, has the same trouble with Lois.) It wouldn’t hurt if Elly and de Guindos took a few beats more, in certain tense moments, to appreciate the ever-increasing stakes in their dangerous love affair, but it’s hard to fault the rollicking rhythm Milne and company builds.

Other usual suspects among Lifeline’s resident artistic crew also bring their A game: Scenic designer Alan Donahue does wonders in a tight space, creating faux-adobe walls for Zorro to scale and a chandelier that serves a thrilling double duty in Act Two. Meanwhile, sound designer Victoria DeIorio’s often-subtle work adds to the ambience. The ensemble also clearly benefits from the work of dialect coach Elise Kauzlaric and fight choreographer Geoff Coates. Special kudos go to Elly and Robert Kauzlaric, Zorro’s primary antagonist, for pulling off their swordfights so smoothly.



From the Daily Herald

‘Zorro’ making its mark
May 16, 2008
By Barbara Vitello

The hint of camp that hangs over Lifeline Theatre’s “The Mark of Zorro” puts a smile on your face without putting you off.

Were it played any broader or directed with a less sure hand, the world premiere of ensemble member Katie McLean’s merry adaptation of the Johnston McCulley novel might have crossed the line and descended into silliness. “Zorro” doesn’t, not in the hands of Lifeline artistic director Dorothy Milne, whose imaginative direction (including a truly inspired chase on horseback) reflects an understanding of moderation as well as a knack for managing melodrama.

Milne’s actors walk up to that line and even peer over it. But with the exception of a couple of cast members whose outsize performances don’t quite complement the tone adopted by the rest of the ensemble, they don’t stray too far and the disarming “Zorro” stays on track.

Combining romance, humor and lively stage combat, this swashbuckler plays like a TV drama from the golden age. With its chaste romance, swordplay that is mostly without serious consequences, paper tiger villains and magnanimous victors, Lifeline’s production tips its gaucho hat to the Disney Studios television series based on McCulley’s hero, that ran on ABC from 1957 to 1959.

Essentially about the obligation to oneself, one’s family and one’s community, the play centers on its titular hero — the enigmatic, Robin Hood-style defender of the oppressed — and his aristocratic, somewhat foppish alter-ego Don Diego Vega. Both roles are played by the nimble James Elly. A slender, unconventional but wholly convincing hero, Elly’s seamless shift from simpering smile to confident smirk reflect the ease with which he negotiates the dual roles.

The story unfolds in 19th-century California, whose mission-style haciendas are simply evoked by set designer Alan Donahue. Bowing to the wishes of his wealthy father Don Alejandro (the imposing Don Bender), Diego agrees to court the feisty Lolita, played by the charming Rosa de Guindos. Tiring easily and wooing awkwardly, the ambivalent Diego fails to impress her, which disappoints her parents Don Carlos (Larry Baldacci) and Dona Catalina (Allison Cain), whose fortune has eroded under the corrupt governor played by Hanlon Smith-Dorsey (who also plays Fray Felipe, a “rogue Franciscan” friar sympathetic to Zorro).

Lolita has another suitor in Captain Ramon (Robert Kauzlaric, nicely insinuating as the villain of the piece), but of course Elly’s dashing Zorro proves more desirable. Rounding out the cast is Manny Tamayo as the blustering Sergeant Gonzales, eager to capture the elusive outlaw and pocket the reward.

Like every good melodrama, “Zorro” comes with a manipulative score. And like every good swashbuckler, it features great sword-fighting, with Elly and Kauzlaric making especially well-matched opponents. Geoff Coates earns praise for his rollicking fight choreography. Exploding across Lifeline’s small stage, it dominates the action-packed second act of this wonderfully good-humored show whose flirtation with camp takes nothing away from what is a jolly good evening of theater.



From Copley News Service

May 13, 2008
By Dan Zeff

The Lifeline staging of “The Mark of Zorro” is a triumph, no surprise for a company that has carved an essential niche for itself in area theater with its adaptations of literary works. What is notable is how the production triumphs on so many levels.

“The Mark of Zorro” is a novel written by a forgotten American author named Johnston McCulley. He first published the story as a magazine serial in 1919 under the name “The Curse of Capistrano.” It didn¹t take its more familiar name until Douglas Fairbanks Sr. made a classic silent movie out of the film in 1920.

McCulley’s original is a takeoff on the hero who avenges the poor and oppressed. The gimmick is that the hero wears a disguise to cover his true identity, usually as a humdrum real life figure nobody would suspect of being a dashing figure who swoops around to defeat the forces of evil. Consider the Scarlet Pimpernel, Superman, and Spider-Man, all champions of the common man and woman in their fight against the tyranny of the powerful while masquerading as ineffectual civilians.

In “The Mark of Zorro,” the hero is a flamboyant swordsman named Zorro, the protector of the defenseless in colonial Spanish California during the early 1800’s. In real life Zorro (a Spanish word for fox) is Don Diego Vega, who presents himself as an effete, cowardly young aristocrat. As Zorro he is transformed, masked and wearing black with sword flashing, to rescue damsels in distress and other victims of the cruel Spanish governor and his chief henchman, Captain Ramon.

The audience at the Lifeline Theatre would expect lots of swashbuckling action, some romance, and some spoofing comedy, all of which Katie McLean’s adaptation supplies in abundance. But customers might not anticipate a show that provides real dramatic tension and full-blooded characters. The audience likely will enter the theater anticipating a cartoon, but they will leave the theater thrilled they have seen a genuine play, beautifully acted and miraculously staged in the tiny Lifeline playing area.

The heart of the production is James Elly in a breakout performance as Don Diego/Zorro. Elly is a delight as the bland and faintly swishy Don Diego. The don’s reluctant courtship scenes with the spunky Lolita Pulido are a comic hoot, but when Elly dons his mask and morphs into Zorro, he’s every inch the dashing and courageous hero with flashing sword and swirling cape. Zorro’s swordfights with the bad guys, notably Captain Ramon, are high-risk adventures with no margin for error, either for the performers or spectators sitting in the first row.

Elly is handsomely supported by a talented supporting cast, notably Don Bender as Don Diego’s demanding father, Robert Kauzlaric as the insolent Captain Ramon, Rosa de Guindos as the strong-minded Lolita, Manny Tamayo as the blowhard Sergeant Gonzales, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey as the nasty governor and a good guy friar, and Allison Cain and Larry Baldacci as Lolita’s parents desperate to have their daughter accept the waffling proposal of the wealthy but uninspiring Don Diego.

The versatile ensemble consists of B. Diego Colon, Eduardo Garcia, Jonathan Helvey, Brian Kilborn, and Jennifer Munoz. They switch from the governor’s soldiers to peasants to caballeros who eventually ride with Zorro against the forces of injustice. The group changes in and out of costumes backstage in nanoseconds and the gusto they bring to their brawling and singing and dancing is terrific.

Katie McLean’s adaptation crams an impressive amount of story into the two hours of performing time, respecting the material where a lesser dramatist would have patronized the material as a nudge-nudge wink-wink comedy. Even the villains in the narrative are three-dimensional, Captain Ramon’s fault being more one of arrogance than comic strip evil. At the end of the story, the governor and the captain are not killed, just humiliated by the newly empowered downtrodden. What could have been a B western turns out to be an exciting and absorbing story, leavened by comedy.

The backstage kudos start with Dorothy Milne’s amazing direction, squeezing a remarkable amount of action and crowd scenes fluently onto that small Lifeline stage. Alan Donohue’s set is dominated by a replica of an adobe mission building exterior that allows Zorro plenty of sudden derring-do entrances from atop the pile, supplying the production with vertical as well as horizontal energy. Branimira Ivanova’s costumes look just right for their period. John Sanchez’s lighting and the sound design by Victoria Delorio are a big help. And a standing ovation goes to Geoff Coates for his fight choreography.

A most entertaining evening.