April 30 – June 20, 2010
EXTENDED through July 18th!

“Few American theaters can do this kind of thing – with such imagination, dignity, humor and judicious restraint – quite like the master storytellers at Lifeline. ”  –Chicago Tribune

“Watching the lavish artistry and endless imagination now at play in Lifeline Theatre’s world premiere production of ‘Neverwhere’… it is easy to see why Lifeline recently racked up 14 non-Equity Jeff nominations. The artists and craftsmen who work with this ensemble are masterful.”  –Chicago Sun-Times

“Spectacle and story so ambitious and colorful, poetic and vulgar, heroic and homely, it’s like eavesdropping on your favorite author’s waking dream.”  –Centerstage Chicago

When Richard Mayhew stops to care for an injured girl on the street, he is drawn into a nightmare shadow world beneath the city of London. To return to his normal life, Richard must brave countless trials, uncover the truth behind a dark conspiracy, and face the indomitable Great Beast. Journey to London Below with a rogues’ gallery of liars, outcasts and assassins, on a treacherous voyage to awaken the hero within. By the award-winning adaptor and director of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

A world premiere based on the urban fantasy by Neil Gaiman ©1996
Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric
Directed by Paul S. Holmquist

Highlights from Neverwhere. Music by Mikhail Fiksel. 

  • Patrick Blashill (Old Bailey, The Earl, The Abbot; April 30-June 27)

    Patrick has been an ensemble member with Lifeline since 1996 and was most recently seen as Dr. Livesey in Treasure Island. Other roles include Ferdinand the Bull in The Story of Ferdinand, the Mighty Gorilla in The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, which was later remounted for “Chicago Theatre on the Air” with guest star Brent Spiner. In addition, Patrick has performed as Edgar Drake in The Piano Tuner (After Dark Award for Outstanding Performance), Victor in Lizard Music, Hugh Thane in The Talisman Ring, Tom in Pistols for Two (Non-Equity Jeff nomination for Best Ensemble), and Bunter in Strong Poison (Non-Equity Jeff nomination for Best Ensemble). He is especially proud to have acted in all three books of Lifeline’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that spanned The Fellowship of the Ring (1997), The Two Towers (2000), and The Return of the King (2002). Patrick has worked with numerous other Chicago theatres including Reverie Theatre, Victory Gardens, Organic Lab, Theatre on the Lake, Stage Left, and Shakespeare’s Motley Crew. Patrick is a graduate of the American academy of Dramatic Arts.

  • Chris Hainsworth (Marquis de Carabas, Brother Fuliginous)

    Chris is pleased to be returning to the Lifeline stage where he last appeared as Israel Hands and Captain Flint in their Jeff Recommended production of Treasure Island. He has also appeared at Lifeline as Oliver in Talking It Over and Mr. MacBride in the extension of Busman’s Honeymoon. Recent credits outside Lifeline include Mott in The Artist Needs A Wife with the side project, Sheriff Raven in The Dreams in the Witch House with WildClaw, Robbie in Scenes from the Big Picture (Equity Jeff Nomination – Best Ensemble) with Seanachaí, and Scotty in the After Dark Award winning Old Town with Strawdog, where he has been an ensemble member since 2000. Recently Chris won the coveted ‘Bloody Axe’ award at WildClaw Theatre’s DeathScribe 2009 for his short audio drama Remembrance.

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Old Woman, Jessica, Anaesthesia, Lamia)

    Elise is thrilled to be returning to the Lifeline stage. A member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2005, she most recently directed Mariette in Ecstasy (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination – Director). As an actor she has appeared in numerous Lifeline productions including Talking it OverQueen LuciaStrong Poison, and The Silver Chair. Other Chicago credits include King Lear at The Goodman Theatre; The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Importance of Being Earnest, and Tartuffe at City Lit Theatre; Cabaret at Metropolis; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at First Folio Shakespeare; and On the Shore of the Wide World at Griffin Theatre (Non Equity Jeff Nomination – Supporting Actress). Next up, Elise will direct Lifeline’s fall production of Wuthering Heights.

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Richard Mayhew; Adaptor)

    Robert is a proud member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble. As an actor, he has appeared in a dozen productions on this stage, including The Return of the KingAround the World in 80 Days (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Supporting Actor-Play and Ensemble), The Killer Angels, and The Mark of Zorro (After Dark Award: Outstanding Production). Other area acting credits include work with Seanachaí Theatre Co., Strawdog, Greasy Joan, The Hypocrites, City Lit, Circle Theatre, New American Theater, Theatre at the Center, and the IL Shakespeare Festival. As a writer, this is his fifth stage adaptation for Lifeline; past scripts include The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Best Production-Play and New Adaptation) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (Jeff Nomination: New Adaptation). Robert’s new adaptation of The Three Musketeers premieres at the IL Shakespeare Festival this summer.

  • Ron Kuzava (Mr. Croup, Tooley; June 25-July 18)

    Ron is ecstatic to be able to perform for the first time on Lifeline’s stage in such a fantastic production. A native of Detroit, he has been perfoming onstage in Chicago for the past 10 years with such companies as Backstage Theater, where he is a proud ensemble member (Aunt Dan and LemonMemory of WaterBloody BessTerra Nova), Defiant Theater (A Clockwork Orange), WildClaw (Dreams in the Witch House), Signal Ensemble (Hamlet), Theo Ubique (Richard III:A Gothic Tale), WNEP and several others.

  • Katie McLean (Door)

    Katie has been an ensemble member with Lifeline since 2006 and appeared in many productions, including Mariette in EcstasyTalking It OverCrossing CaliforniaThe True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!Gaudy NightTrust Me On ThisFar From the Madding CrowdBongo Larry & Two Bad BearsWhose Body?, and Cooking with Lard. Her adaptation of The Mark of Zorro won a Non-Equity Jeff Award in 2009, and she has directed Johnny Tremain (2006) and The Cricket in Times Square (2005) for the Lifeline stage. Katie is proud to have performed in Chicago with Black Sheep Productions, Blindfaith, the Hypocrites, Greasy Joan & Co., and Bailiwick Repertory, among others, and looks forward to directing Lifeline’s world premiere adaptation of Watership Down next season.

  • Kyra Morris (Sylvia, Hunter)

    Kyra is delighted to join Lifeline in this journey through the world of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. A graduate of UCLA’s Theatre Film & Television Acting Program, she is glad to be back at home in Chicago. Recent roles include Antigone in AjaxAntigone at State Theatre, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Absolute Shakespeare, where she also served as Movement Director and Dance Captain, and a member of the Cymbal Hat Army in Redmoon Theatre’s Last of My Species.

  • Ian Novak (Gary, Lord Rat-Speaker, The Fop With No Name, The Angel Islington; June 25-July 18)

    Ian was last seen at Lifeline in Meryl Friedman’s production of A Wrinkle In Time. Other credits include performances at Raven Theatre (Hedda Gabler), Griffin Theatre (Letters HomeOn The Shore of the Wild World), Caffeine Theatre, Vitalist Theatre, Live Bait Theatre (Blind TastingCheri), The Bailiwick, New American Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare, Apple Tree (Shakespeare’s R&J), Goodman Theatre, two seasons at Stratford Festival of Canada, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and many readings with the good folks at the Chicago Shakespeare Project.

  • Mike Ooi (Old Bailey, The Earl, The Abbot; July 2-18)

    Mike is pleased to return to Lifeline after appearing in the KidSeries production of The Last of the Dragons and the MainStage production of The Mark of Zorro. Other Chicago credits include 1985 and Mop Top Festival (Factory Theatre); Three Penny Opera (The Hypocrites at Steppenwolf Garage); Old Town (Strawdog Theatre); Curse of the Crying Heart and The Rocketman (House Theatre of Chicago). Mike has also worked as a stage manager and in other aspects for The House Theatre of Chicago, The Hypocrites, and Lifeline Theatre. Mike can also be seen in The Ghosts of Treasure Island at Adventure Stage.

  • Sean Sinitski (Mr. Croup, Tooley; April 30-June 20)

    Sean is pleased to be returning to Lifeline for a third time, last performing as Long John Silver in Treasure Island. He was member of Defiant and performed such roles as Hamlet, Macduff, and a guy that got his thumb stolen in Action Movie: the Play! Other Chicago credits include: Silk Road (Back of the Throat); Strawdog (The Cherry OrchardThe Merchant of VeniceDetective Story); Chicago Shakespeare (Winters Tale); Writers Theater (The Doctor’s Dilemma); Next Theater (Accidental Death of an AnarchistThe Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer); Hypocrites (Henry VBalm and Gilead); Stage Left (Fellow Travelers); Black Sheep Productions (Another Day in the Empire); and “Tied The Leader” where he plays the role of Jericho the Gunslinger.

  • Phil Timberlake (Gary, Lord Rat-Speaker, The Fop With No Name, The Angel Islington; April 30-June 20)

    Phil has appeared on the Lifeline stage as Bunter in Busman’s Honeymoon, Prendick in The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Jeff Award, Best Production), the Guru/Peppino in Queen Lucia (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination, Best Supporting Actor – Musical), and as Gollum/Legolas in The Two Towers. He also coached dialects for Treasure IslandStrong PoisonGaudy NightTalking It Over, and A Room With a View. Other Chicago acting credits include First Folio Shakespeare (The Tempest), Apple Tree (Violet), and Shaw Chicago (Misalliance). He is an Assistant Professor of Voice and Speech at the Theatre School, DePaul University. Phil joined the ensemble in 2006.

  • Christopher M. Walsh (Mr. Vandemar, Portico, Varney, Brother Sable, Hammersmith)

    Christopher is proud to return to Lifeline after last fall’s Treasure Island. Previous Lifeline credits include Busman’s Honeymoon, and The Mark of Zorro at the Theatre Building. Other Chicago credits include: Camp Freedom! (Black Sheep); Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revenge(BackStage); Journey’s End (Griffin Theatre); Chalk (Right Brain Project); The Hound of the Baskervilles (City Lit); Hamlet (Building Stage); What’s Wrong with Angry?(Circle Theatre); and A Clockwork Orange (Defiant).

  • Sara Gorsky (Understudy)

    Sara is thrilled to join the London Underground! She was last seen at Lifeline understudying The Last of the Dragons. She recently appeared as Ilse in Promethean’s Spring Awakening and as the Doll in the Mammals’ Breed With Me (Orgie Award-acting). Other credits include Strawdog Theatre Company, the Resonants, Richard Crowe and the Port Washington Pirate Festival.

  • Dan Granata (Understudy)

    Dan is pleased to return to the Lifeline stage after appearing in this season’s Mrs. Caliban. He most recently appeared in New Leaf Theatre’s The Man Who Was Thursday and Touch, and as part of the ensemble in Caffeine Theatre’s Under Milk Wood. Other Chicago credits include Raven (Hedda GablerLaughter on the 23rd Floor), Signal Ensemble (1776), Open Eye (Trust), and the Right Brain Project (Chalk). Elsewhere in Rogers Park, Dan serves as Managing Director of the side project theatre company.

  • Matt Kahler (Understudy)

    Matt is pleased as punch to be involved with Lifeline for the first time. He has appeared in Frankenstein (The Hypocrites), Ren-Faire! A Fistful of Ducats (The Factory), Les Liasons Dangereuses (St. Louis Shakespeare), Cyrano De Bergerac (Baltimore Shakespeare Festival), The Homecoming(Hot City), and other productions all over this land.

  • Mallory Nees (Understudy)

    Mallory is a recent graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University. Some favorite roles include Pennywise in Urinetown (dir. Dexter Bullard), Florina in Mad Forest (dir. Carlos Murillo) and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. Before coming to Chicago, Mallory performed at various venues in her home state of Wisconsin as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gilda in Design for Living, and Sarah in Spinning Into Butter. Since graduation, she’s worked with a few companies in Chicago, but none as often as Lifeline. This season, you may have seen her in Lifeline’s KidSeries productions of Dooby Dooby MooThe Last of the Dragons, and The Blue Shadow.

  • Paul S. Holmquist (Director)

    Paul joined the Lifeline ensemble in 2006 and has directed The Island of Dr. Moreau (winner of 5 Non-Equity Jeff Awards including Best Production-Play) for Lifeline’s 25th Anniversary Season, and last spring’s Busman’s Honeymoon. For Lifeline’s KidSeries, Paul directed Rikki Tikki Tavi & Other Just So Stories and Flight of the Dodo. He has appeared on the Lifeline stage in Strong PoisonThe Talisman Ring (2005) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (Non-Equity Jeff Award Nomination: Supporting Actor-Play). Other directing credits include The Constant Wife and The Robber Bride Groom (Non-Equity Jeff Award Nomination: Director-Musical) for the Griffin Theatre Company and Under Milk Wood for Caffeine Theatre. Paul holds a BFA in Acting from the Theatre School at DePaul University and a Graduate Laban Certificate in Movement Analysis from Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches and works.

  • Erica Foster (Stage Manager)

    Erica has stage managed numerous productions at Lifeline including Treasure IslandThe Mark of ZorroCat’s CradleThe Killer AngelsAround the World in 80 DaysJohnny TremainThe Talisman Ring (2005) and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. Erica has also been Lifeline’s Operations Manager for the past four seasons.

  • Charlie Alves (Video/Projection Designer)

    Charlie is pleased to be making his Lifeline debut. His Chicago credits include The Night Season for Vitalist Theatre; Independence for Citadel Theatre Company; Little Brother for Griffin Theatre Company; and Hope VIfor Chicago Dramatists. Charlie has received a BFA in Theatre and Communications from Lake Forest College.

  • Eva Breneman (Dialect/Vocal Coach)

    Chicagoland credits include: Brother/Sister PlaysPerfect Mendacity, and The Diary of Anne Frank (Steppenwolf); When She DancedHistory Boys, and Fiorello (Timeline); A LifeThe Lieutenant of Inishmore, and Grey Gardens (Northlight); The Overwhelming (Next Theatre); FedraAround the World in 80 DaysBlack Diamond, and The Old Curiosity Shop(Lookingglass); Carousel (Court); The Maids and The Puppetmaster of Lodz (Writer’s Theatre); The Light in the Piazza (Goodman Theatre); The Voysey Inheritance and Bronte(Remy Bumppo); Nine (Porchlight); Candels to the Sun (Eclipse); Aristocrats (StrawDog); Moby Dick (Milwaukee Rep); Blithe Spirit (Madison Repertory); Denmark (Victory Gardens). Regional and Off-Broadway credits include: Mamma Mia! (National Tour and Las Vegas); and Around the World in 80 Days (Centerstage Baltimore and Kansas City Repertory Theatre). Television credits include: Pleading Guilty (Fox); The Beast (A&E Television); and Caught in the Act (Lifetime Television). Eva is an Associate Artist at Timeline, and a Production Affiliate of Lookingglass Theatre Company. She holds an MA from The Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and a BFA from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Alan is a Lifeline ensemble member and veteran scenic designer for Lifeline’s MainStage and KidSeries, having most recently designed Treasure Island and Dooby Dooby Moo. 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). Current designs elsewhere include Dancing at Lughnasa for Seanachaí Theatre and Les Liaisons Dangereuses for Remy Bumppo.

  • Mikhail Fiksel (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    Mikhail is excited to be back at Lifeline, having had a blast working on The Last of The Dragons. He is a proud member of Teatro Vista, where his recent projects included El Grito del Bronx (co-production with Collaboraction) and Blindmouth Singing (Jeff Award for Sound Design); as well as of Strawdog Theatre Company (After Dark Award for Original Score, Old Town, and a Jeff Award for Original Incidental Music, A Lie of the Mind); and of Serendipity Theatre Collective (where he is the musical director for their acclaimed series 2ndStory). He is also an Artistic Associate with Collaboraction (Orgie Award for Original Music, Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow) and Redmoon Theater (Jeff Award Nomination, Winter Pageant Redux) and on the faculty at Loyola University, where he teaches Sound Design. Other recent credits include The CabinetLast of My SpeciesOnce Upon a Time (Redmoon Theatre); Awake & Sing (Northlight); Feast (Albany Park Theatre Project); Living GreenA Park in Our HouseMy Children, My Africa (Victory Gardens); FrankensteinOedipus (The Hypocrites); Jon (Collaboraction); Uncle VanyaThe Cherry OrchardR.U.R. (Strawdog); Sweet TeaStupid Kids (AboutFace); Maria’s FieldRomeo&Juliet(TUTA); Fake Lake (Neofuturists); Massacre (The Goodman Theatre) and various productions with Adventure Stage Chicago, where he’s been a resident designer since 2006. Outside of theatre stages, he is usually performing or recording with his band Seeking Wonderland or as a solo act, often under the monikers “dj white russian” or “The Red Menace.”

  • Kevin D. Gawley (Lighting Designer)

    Kevin’s work has appeared on many Chicago stages, including Lifeline Theatre where he won the Non-Equity Jeff Awards for his designs of The Island of Doctor Moreau and Jane Eyre, the After Dark Award for his design of Strong Poison, and has been an ensemble member and resident lighting designer since 2001. Kevin was the theatrical lighting designer on the feature film, Were the World Mine, released last fall. His work also appeared in numerous productions at the Bailiwick, Organic, Porchlight, OperaModa, Blindfaith, Theatre on the Lake, Metropolis, StoreFront, Loyola University Chicago, Revels Chicago, Midwest Jewish, Taylor University and at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. Kevin is the Lighting and Scenic design professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and has taught Lighting Design and Technology courses previously at Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Adam Hubbell (Assistant Sound Designer)

    Adam Hubbell’s musical background ranges from conservatory training on piano and contrabass to song production and recording engineering. Since completing his undergraduate studies in music at University of Chicago in 2006, Adam has been channeling these experiences into sonic designs for dance and theater productions. Adam has done work for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Side Project, Village Players, Mary-Arrchie, University of Chicago’s University Theater, Wicker Park’s Around the Coyote arts festival, Aloft Aerial Dance, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dance your Ph.D. event.

  • Cortney Hurley (Production Manager)

    Cortney is excited to be rounding out her fourth season with Lifeline after working on such productions as Treasure IslandThe Picture of Dorian GrayThe Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Mark of Zorro. Previous production management positions include the last four seasons at Strawdog Theatre, where she PMed a variety of shows including Red NosesCherry OrchardAristocratsLie of the Mind, and Marathon ‘33Ellen Under Glass with the House Theatre of Chicago; and One False Note with Plasticene. She currently serves as the Production Manager and General Manager at Strawdog Theatre, as well as the Assistant Production Manager at Theater on the Lake.

  • Jordan Kardasz (Assistant Lighting Designer)

    Jordan is excited to be assisting on her first show at Lifeline. She has been working in Chicago as a lighting designer and assistant for over a year now, after moving back from a brief stay in Ohio. Design credits include Prodigies (Chicago Dance Crash); A Christmas Memory & The Thanksgiving VisitorCottopatch Gospel (Provision Theater Company); Revolving Doors (Matter Dance Company); She Stoops to ConquerThe Habitation of Dragons, and As It Is In Heaven (Trinity Christian College). Jordan has also been the assistant lighting designer for Uncle VanyaCherry OrchardSt. Crispins Day (Strawdog Theater); OedipusFrankenstein (The Hypocrites); and Gossamer (Adventure Stage).

  • Kimberly G. Morris (Puppet Designer)

    Kim is pleased to be working again with Lifeline. Based in Chicago, she freelance designs and builds costumes, wigs, makeup, props, puppets and special effects for numerous venues around the country, such as the Chicago Childrens Theatre, Babes with Blades, Shedd Aquarium, Stage Left Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, The Griffin Theater, American Shakespeare Center (VA), Theatre West Virginia (WV), Denison University (OH), Virginia Commonwealth University (VA), and Tecumseh!(OH). Upcoming projects include the costume design of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with Noble Fool Theatricals, costume design of Yellow Boal with MEHS, and costume design for Fame with NWHS.

  • R&D Choreography (Violence Designers)

    R&D Choreography is totally psyched to once again be working with Lifeline. R&D is a non-profit company founded by David Gregory and Richard Gilbert for the purpose of improving the power and effectiveness of Chicago area theatre through the art of violence design. Since 1997, R&D has choreographed fight scenes in over one hundred thirty-five productions, taught stage combat at universities, colleges, and workshops, and performed in professional theatre, live stunt shows, and film. They have designed violence for dozens of Chicago area theatres, including About Face, Apple Tree, ATC, Azusa, Bailiwick, Blindfaith, Circle, First Folio, Griffin, National Pastimes, New American Theatre, Piven, Profiles, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, Theo Ubique and Trapdoor.

  • Maren Robinson (Dramaturg)

    Neverwhere is Maren’s first production with Lifeline Theatre. She is thrilled to be working with Paul and the splendid cast and crew on this amazing story. She recently was dramaturg for the current production of The Farnsworth Invention at TimeLine Theatre, where she is an Associate Artist. Maren has worked with Eclipse, Caffeine, Greasy Joan, and Camenae theaters, and served as an artistic intern at Steppenwolf Theatre. She holds a Master’s Degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago. She has taught or lectured at the Newberry Library, the Chicago Public Library and various Chicago universities. This spring she will be performing modern dance with Luna Troupe. Maren is a member of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.

  • Elizabeth Powell Wislar (Costume Designer)

    Elizabeth has been designing in the Chicago area for over 10 years. Her designs have been seen in collaboration with over 35 local theaters, and most of the area colleges and universities. She is the recipient of multiple Jeff Awards and nominations, as well as an After Dark Award, and the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award in 2004. Eizabeth spent 5 years (1996-1999, 2002) as the Assistant Designer/Head Draper for the annual Baroque Handel Opera Festival in Göttingen, Germany. Neverwhere is Elizabeth’s 101st professional design in Chicago.

  • Jessica Wright (Assistant Director & Assistant Stage Manager)

    Jessica is delighted to return to Lifeline, where she previously co-designed the props for Treasure Island, stage managed Flight of the Dodo, and has run the sound board for the last five Mainstage shows. Locally, she has worked as an actor (Curious Theatre Branch’s Madelyn Dangles the Noose), a dramaturg (Lookingglass Theatre’s Our Future Metropolis), a playwright (RhinoFest 2010’s Under Ground), and a director (Owl Theater’s A New Nation). She received her degree in English from the University of Chicago in 2008.

  • Ian Zywica (Technical Director)

    Ian works throughout Chicago as a freelance Scenic Designer and Technical Director. His design work includes, Over the Tavern (Noble Fool Theatre); The Robber Bride Groom (Griffin Theatre); Once On This Island (Porchlight Music Theatre); Under Milk Wood (Caffeine Theatre) and The Blue Shadow (Lifeline Theatre). Upcoming designs include Into The Woodswith Porchlight Music Theatre.

From the Chicago Tribune

‘Neverwhere’ at Lifeline: Descending into Neil Gaiman’s richly imagined London Below
May 12, 2010
By Chris Jones

In his graphic novel “Neverwhere,” Neil Gaiman posits a second, subterranean London where real shepherds tend Shepherd’s Bush, an earl dominates Earl’s Court, and actual angels frolic in Islington. I don’t know if they’d have the same trouble with a parliamentary election in Gaiman’s creepy parallel universe of London Below, but if head to Lifeline Theatre, you can get a taste of a fantastical world populated, as one of its denizens says, “by those who fell through the cracks.”

Actually, Robert Kauzlaric’s adaptation and Paul S. Holmquist’s epic production combine at Lifeline to offer rather more than a taste. More like a full-on banquet of the senses.

Theatricalizing Gaiman is a tricky business, especially in one of Chicago’s smaller theaters. His fans are fervent, feasting on the metaphors and existential truisms that his fantasy fiction kicks out. Furthermore, his all-embracing alternate universes encourage you to sketch them out in your head. If you read Gaiman’s “Coraline” before you saw the movie, you’ll know what I mean.

Actually, “Neverwhere” began life as a BBC mini-series (the novel grew out of the original teleplay). And it shares some qualities with the likes of “Dr. Who” and “Life on Mars.” The story has a mild-mannered protagonist named Richard Mayhew (played by Kauzlaric himself), replete with a desk job, a fiancé and a superhero lurking within. After he stops to help an injured woman – who turns out to come from London Below – he finds himself on a rapid descent into that needy altered universe of misfits, miscreants and moral dilemmas. Can he get back? Does he want to get back? And could his boring above-ground world ever be the same? Such are the questions of the night.

I wouldn’t say that even Holmquist’s long show has a lot of time to ponder the quieter themes of Gaiman’s extraordinary work, or layer in a great deal of theatrical texture. It’s too busy telling the core adventure story, which has an intricate plot, and doing justice to the fullness of Gaiman’s imaginative world. And in those very important areas, this show is a remarkable achievement.

The creative team at Lifeline throws in everything from a puppet Lord Rat to a grandiose mythical beast or two – and the narrative pounds along in a very satisfying fashion. Unlike the Hollywood take on Gaiman, Lifeline inevitably creates a less intrusive environment – there is a clear visual picture of London Below in Alan Donohue’s very shrewd design, but it’s mostly a noir world of shadow and motion. Your own imaginations can remain alongside. Fine performances abound, including Kauzlaric’s Richard and Katie McLean’s spunky Door and Phil Timberlake’s creepily beautiful Speaker/Islington. As Old Bailey and others, the terrific Patrick Blashill evokes the emotional core that makes Gaiman’s work so distinctively compelling, while Chris Hainsworth and Christopher M. Walsh have the comedy cavern down cold.

Few American theaters can do this kind of thing – with such imagination, dignity, humor and judicious restraint – quite like the master storytellers at Lifeline. And thus it is safe to take Gaiman fans, young and old, to “Neverwhere.” They’ll immediately see that their guy – and the worlds he has stuck inside his readers’ heads – are in sensitive and aptly exciting hands.



From Time Out Chicago

May 17, 2010
By Kris Vire


London Below, the subterranean domain created by popular author Gaiman first for a 1996 BBC miniseries, then a 1998 novel, is a mash-up of the medieval and the modern that lurks in the peripheral vision of everyday Londoners waiting in Tube stations or browsing at Harrods. It’s a cutthroat place where Shepherd’s Bush is patrolled by shepherds you don’t want to meet, and “mind the gap” is a grave warning indeed.

Everyday Londoner Richard Mayhew suddenly discovers it after he tends to an injured young woman he finds on the sidewalk, a refugee from Below named Door. The next day he learns he’s been erased from his own life: his ATM card useless, his apartment rented, his fiancée and coworkers showing no recognition of him. He’s fallen between the cracks into London Below and must seek out Door to regain his life Above.

Whether in comics (Sandman) or prose (American Gods), Gaiman traffics in mythologies. Neverwhere is his archetypal hero’s quest, and Lifeline’s skillful staging is remarkable in its efficiency. Kauzlaric’s adaptation is faithful in letter and spirit, but he knows where excisions must be made; he also leads the stellar cast of nine (just nine?!) with a savvy, relatable portrayal of Richard as a stranger in a not-so-strange land. Holmquist’s choreography of the action makes a stage smaller than most living rooms seem sprawling; the design team’s elegant representations of settings that bridge the real and fantastical are truly astounding. Kauzlaric doesn’t quite solve Gaiman’s biggest problem, the overlong denouement, but Lifeline’s production is an exhilarating glimpse into a world just out of sight.



From the Chicago Sun-Times

Lifeline walks on the dark side
May 10, 2010
By Hedy Weiss

A modern-day Dickensian tale with bits of Freud

“Watching the lavish artistry and endless imagination now at play in Lifeline Theatre’s world premiere production of ‘Neverwhere’ — Robert Kauzlaric’s zesty stage adaptation of British writer Neil Gaiman’s first novel — it is easy to see why Lifeline recently racked up 14 non-Equity Jeff nominations. The artists and craftsmen who work with this ensemble are masterful.

“Consider the world conjured in this psychological fantasy — a consciousness-warping epic of self-discovery (and self-destruction, too) that plays like a super-violent, modern-day Dickensian yarn laced with a good bit of Freudian undertow.

“The story begins mundanely enough as Richard Mayhew (well played by tireless adapter Kauzlaric) works in his London office and then heads out for an important event with his upwardly mobile fiancee, Jessica (a shape-changing Elise Kauzlaric). Along the way, Richard insists on rescuing Door (a neatly volatile Katie McLean), a strange, wounded beauty lying in the street. She leads him to a dangerous, prisonlike underground “counter-London,” very much like a network of antiquated tube stations full of bizarre and threatening strangers. It is a place from which it is nearly impossible to escape.

“There is sharp character work by Chris Hainsworth (neatly ambiguous as the Marquis); Sean Sinitski and Christopher M. Walsh (terrific as the sadistic duo); Kyra Morris (as a sleek, unreliable huntress); Patrick Blashill (as the raven stew-eating Old Bailey); and Phil Timberlake (an eerie Angel). And the design team — Alan Donahue, Kevin D. Gawley, Elizabeth Powell Wislar, Charlie Alves, Kimberly G. Morris (superb puppets), and Mikhel Fiksel (chilling music and sound, heightened by the real trains that run outside Lifeline) — is superb.”



From Centerstage Chicago

May 10, 2010
By C.S.E. Cooney

RECOMMENDED: a “Must See” show

“Down here in the magic and the sewers and the dark,” is Lifeline’s “Neverwhere” in a single, succinct (and stolen) phrase. This remarkable adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s urban fantasy novel brings the nightmare Wonderland of underground London to life.

On pure aesthetics, “Neverwhere” scores high for the choreographed vision of its design team. Kevin Gawley turns light into wizardry. Luminous pinwheels appear in midair, neon bridges float in the darkness, subway tunnels, mazes, rooftops and corporate offices are all lit or shadowed with equal panache. Alan Donohue’s sets are as versatile as a playground, foreboding as a demolition site and zany as a funhouse. The sound effects by Mikhail Fiskel add mood and subtlety. Wislar’s costumes magically multiply nine actors into twenty-three characters, who in turn populate two entire cities – London above and London below.

The ensemble, of course, has something to do with this happy alchemy. Whether they are manipulating puppets (pigeons, rats and something else much, much bigger), flashing their straight razors, flapping their cloaks or leering through eye patches, the actors remain focused, invested and dexterous of dialect, all while conveying the distinct impression that they are having the time of their lives. Robert Kauzlaric’s (also the adaptor) Richard Mayhew is bewildered and earnest – but never without a keen sense of the ridiculous. McLean’s Door is impatient and aristocratic. Hainsworth’s Marquis is quick-witted and deliciously dry, his ironic courtier’s bow right out of another century. And the villain brothers, Croup and Vandemar? Terrifically funny. Vile. Wear cravats.

Lifeline does for fantasy what WildClaw does for horror – gives us spectacle and story so ambitious and colorful, poetic and vulgar, heroic and homely, it’s like eavesdropping on your favorite author’s waking dream. “Say goodbye to the world you knew” – indeed!




Fascinating adaptation of Neverwhere is spellbinding entertainment
May 11, 2010
By Tom Williams


“The creative artists at Lifeline Theatre present another wildly engaging adaptation of a novel. This time adapter Robert Kauzlaric and director Paul S. Holmquist have chosen the 1996 urban fantasy novel (and TV mini-series) by British novelist Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere… [The] quest is filled with action, humor, stellar combat and scary moments. You’d be hard pressed to find finer tech elements or better performances than from this ensemble. The eight players — Patrick Blashill, Chris Hainsworth, Elise Kauzlaric, Robert Kuzlaric, Katie McLean, Kyra Morris, Sean Sinitski, Phil Timberlake and Christopher M. Walsh — each contributed quick costume changes and expert character portrayals giving the show a large cast feel. Terrific accents (kudos to dialect coach Eva Breneman) and fine stage combat thrilled us. Neverwhere is an adventure into the world of urban fantasy well worth experiencing.”



From Chicago Now

“Neverwhere”: Desired Destination!
May 11, 2010
By Katy Walsh

The term ‘mind the gap’ takes on new meaning as an unsuspecting nobody slips through the cracks to the London underworld. Lifeline Theatre presents NEVERWHERE based on Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel. Richard has a stressful job, pushy fiancé and troll collection. One night, he notices an injured woman on the street. By helping her, he gets sucked into a parallel world below London. The damsel in distress is from a noble family with special powers for finding doors. Her family has been killed. She is being chased by hired assassins. She recruits Richard to help her uncover the conspirator. A legendary house has no doors. Mystical community coexists on train platforms. Death is not a final destination. The adventure jumps off the comic book page and onto Lifeline’s stage. Where can you find the intersection with a strong script, stellar cast and spectacular design? NEVERWHERE!

The fantasy journey starts with the execution of a tight script. Robert Kauzlaric has adapted the complexity of the below London universe into manageable informative scenes. The dark adventure unfolds with hilarious dialogue. Paul S. Holmquist directs the action with all the zing and whack worthy of any superheroes’ quest for justice. Holmquist’s pace is pure Marvel page turner. To create chaos, he recycles cast members in crowd scenes. He’s aided in the disguise by costume designer Elizabeth Powell Wislar. The underworld garb is an eclectic explosion of renaissance fair meets the cartoon version of “Good Fellas” with healthy helpings of feathers, suede and rubber. To hide the colorful wardrobe choices in crowd scenes, Wislar strategically puts dark hats and overcoats on the cast. The vibrant dress is a strong contrast to the severe industrial style set. Alan Donahue has transformed the Lifeline Theatre into below Gotham. It looks authentically gothic lit up with a bus station glow or shadowed in red by Kevin D. Gawley. R&D Choreography brings the fight! Mikhail Fiskail sets it all too original music. It looks and sounds like these designers collaborative powers could rival the Hall of Justice league.

The cast rules the underworld with humor and a barter system. Kauzlaric (Richard) endears as the unlikely hero with a bumbling vulnerability and a strong Scottish accent. Katie McLean (Door) leads the charge as a noble heroine chasing the truth. Sean Sinitski (Croup) and Christopher M. Walsh -no relation (Vandemar) are the hired assassins. ‘Croup & Vandemar: nuisances eliminated, obstacles obliterated, bothersome limbs removed & tutelary dentistry,’ announces Mr. Croup as he answers the telephone. Sinitski and Walsh are a killer comedy duo. Sinitski is the fast-talking animated leader to Walsh’s deadpan delivery. Chris Hainsworth (Marquis) delivers the elegant, arrogant sarcasm with aristocratic gallantry. The stoic bodyguard, Kyra Morris (Hunter) is a Watchmen in the making. Patrick Blashill (Old Baily, The Earl, The Abbot), Phil Timberlake (Gary, The Fop, The Angel) and Elise Kauzlaric (Old woman, Jessica, Anaesthesis, Lamia) amuse in memorable smaller roles. This ensemble puts the eXtraordinary in X-men.

NEVERWHERE is a blockbuster comedy, fantasy adventure. Bringing it to the stage, Lifeline Theatre tackled the mission improbable with amazing results. It’s full feature entertainment that will make you be a little nicer to people on the Red Line… the ones you see and the ones you don’t.



From Gapers Block

May 10, 2010
By Randall Colburn

Neverwhere, which opens tonight, definitely feels like a work of Gaiman in tone and atmosphere, reveling in the cheeky dialogue, creeping menace, and murky ambiance that’s intrinsic to his work… Neverwhere follows Richard Mayhew, a desk jockey and displaced Scotsman, as his selfless attempt to help an injured girl unwittingly draws him into a dark, labyrinthine world beneath the streets of London. If he ever hopes to make it back to London Above he must do all manner of epic and huge and brave and wild things, all the while running with and from the sleazy and dangerous denizens of London Below. Sean Sinitski and Christopher M. Walsh, playing the hilariously sadistic duo Croup and Vandemar, are an absolute delight, their dry banter and garish demeanor heightening a menace that’s nothing but playful. Spirited supporting performances from Kyra Morris and Chris Hainsworth feel most in line with Gaiman’s work, offering us complicated characters who transcend the stock types at their core… Lifeline’s adaptation is beautiful to watch, consistently amusing, and briskly paced by director Paul S. Holmquist, never feeling close to its 150-minute running time. Fanboys, take a deep breath: they’ve done it justice.”