The Count of Monte Cristo

September 9-October 30, 2011
EXTENDED through November 13!!!
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm

“Walsh’s stellar adaptation [is] a guilty theatrical pleasure you don’t have to atone for afterward. It’s zesty, good fun — colorful theatrical comfort food with enough philosophical seasoning and emotional heat… The cogs and wheels of Holmquist’s ensemble make this contraption hum like a well-tuned Bugatti”  –Chicago Tribune

“In the title role, Chris Hainsworth gives an intense performance that seamlessly transitions between Edmond’s defeated fragility and the Count’s cold determination.”  –Time Out Chicago

Framed by a conspiracy of three terrible enemies, Edmond Dantès is torn from the woman he loves and wrongly imprisoned for fourteen years. After escaping captivity, he enters the upper reaches of Parisian society under a new name: the Count of Monte Cristo. With the aid of Albert, son of his former fiancée, the Count insinuates himself into the lives of his three tormentors and, one by one, seeks to use their own secrets to destroy them. A dark tale of intrigue and vengeance, in a world premiere adaptation.Based on the 1844 classic by Alexandre Dumas (The Three MusketeersThe Man in the Iron Mask
Adapted by Christopher M. Walsh
Directed by Paul S. Holmquist

Highlights from The Count of Monte Cristo 

  • Don Bender (Caderousse/Abbe Faria)

    Don previously appeared at Lifeline in The Mark of Zorro and The Picture of Dorian Gray. He was most recently seen as Sherlock Holmes in Sign of the Four at City Lit, where he also played the detective in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Holmes and Watson. Other recent credits include Frost/Nixon (TimeLine Theatre), Dancing at Lughnasa (Seanachaí Theatre Company), The Little Foxes (Shattered Globe Theatre), Our Enemies (Silk Road Theatre Project), One Fine Day (Stage Left Theatre), and The Night Season (Vitalist Theatre). He received a Joseph Jefferson Nomination for his performance in City Lit’s production of Old Times. Over the course of the last 25 years he has worked with such companies as Writers Theatre, Next Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Circle Theatre, The Hypocrites, and many others.

  • Dana Black (Hermine)

    Dana is thrilled to be making her Lifeline debut. She was recently seen in Theatre Seven’s The Chicago Landmark Project and Caffeine Theatre’s Wreckage, directed by Joanie Schultz. Other Chicago credits include Bordello (Chicago Dramatists); Dental Society Midwinter Meeting (At Play Productions/Chicago Dramatists); Baal (TUTA); Wild Nights with Emily(Caffeine Theatre); Two by Pinter (Piven Theatre); Pangs of the Messiah(Silk Road Theatre); Beauty on the Vine (BackStage Theatre); The Permanent Way (New Leaf Theatre); Dona Rosita (Caffeine Theatre); This Happy Breed (TimeLine). She has understudied at Steppenwolf, The Goodman and Victory Gardens and is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf. Dana is a voiceover artist with Naked Voices, Inc. and an Artistic Associate with Caffeine Theatre. She will be appearing in Next Theatre’s production of After the Revolution directed by Kimberly Senior in the spring of 2012.

  • Chris Daley (Hermine)

    Chris has previously appeared at Lifeline as Blackberry in Watership Down. Additional Chicago credits: It’s a Wonderful Life and Letters Home at Fox Valley Rep; A Perfect Wedding, directed by Joanie Schultz (Circle Theatre); My Fair Lady and Fast Forward Tour (About Face Theatre); Momentary Opera Spectacle and Last of My Species II (Redmoon Theatre); and Talk Radio (The State Theatre), among others. Regional: two seasons with the Red Barn Summer Theatre of Indiana. Chris received a BFA in Acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently studies with Allen Gilmore.

  • John Ferrick (Danglars)

    This marks John’s tenth show with Lifeline, after last popping in for one night in Watership Down. Lifeline credits: Treasure IslandFlight of the DodoThe Picture of Dorian GrayTalking It OverThe Mark of ZorroThe Killer AngelsThe Return of the King, and The Two Towers. A proud Ensemble Member of Strawdog Theatre, John’s credits there include: Conquest of the South PoleRed NosesOld TownThree SistersMarathon ’33Tooth of CrimeJulius CaesarFuddy MeersKnives in HensThe Green Bird, and Our Country’s Good. Highlights of past Chicago credits include: The Hypocrites (Cabaret), Stage Left (Kingsville), The Side Project (The Artist Needs a Wife), About Face (inaugural production of Dream Boy), The Goodman (Arcadia), and A Crew of Patches, where he is a company member (Julius CaesarMacbethRomeo and Juliet). A member of both SAG and AFTRA, John holds a BFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

  • Chris Hainsworth (Edmond)

    A Lifeline ensemble member since 2010, Chris was last seen as the Marquis de Carabas in Lifeline’s Non-Equity Jeff Award-winning production of Neverwhere. Other Lifeline credits include Israel Hands/Captain Flint in Treasure Island and Oliver in Talking it Over. Other Chicago credits include Mott in The Artist Needs a Wife at the side project; Sheriff Raven in The Dreams in the Witch House with WildClaw; Robbie in Scenes from the Big Picture with Seanachaí; and Scotty in Old Town (After Dark Award: Best Musical), Mike in A Lie of the Mind, Ruddy in Marathon ’33 (Non-Equity Jeff Award: Ensemble), Det. Dakis in Detective Story (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Production & Ensemble) and Marcus Brutus in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, amongst many others at Strawdog, where he is an Emeritus Ensemble member. In 2009 Chris won the coveted Bloody Axe Award in WildClaw Theatre’s DeathScribe Festival for his piece Remembrance. He is also adapting Lifeline’s second MainStage show of the 2011-12 season: Hunger, based on the debut novel by Elise Blackwell.

  • Susaan Jamshidi (Haydee)

    Susaan returns to Lifeline after appearing in The Blue Shadow. This summer, she performed with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Much AdoThe Winter’s Tale, and Tartuffe. Other regional credits include The Arabian Nights at Arena Stage, Berkeley Rep, and Lookingglass, directed by Mary Zimmerman; The Crucible with Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Young Company, directed by Timothy Douglas; and several readings at the Goodman Theatre including Yasmina’s Necklace, directed by Henry Godinez. Other Chicago credits include The Arab-Israeli Cookbook (Theatre Mir), Skin in Flames and Spare Change(Stage Left), Terman Vox Machina (Oracle Theatre), and work with The Inconvenience. Susaan received her MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is represented by Gray Talent Group.

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Villefort)

    Robert is a proud member of Lifeline Theatre’s artistic ensemble. As an actor, he has appeared in fifteen productions on the Lifeline stage over the past twelve seasons, including The Return of the KingAround the World in 80 Days (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Supporting Actor-Play and Ensemble), The Killer AngelsStrong PoisonA Room With A ViewThe Mark of Zorro (After Dark Award: Outstanding Production), Neverwhere, and Wuthering Heights. Other area acting credits include work with Seanachaí Theatre Co., Strawdog, Goodman Theatre, Greasy Joan & Co., The Hypocrites, City Lit, Circle Theatre, Bailiwick Repertory, New American Theater, Theatre at the Center, and the IL Shakespeare Festival.

  • Jesse Manson (Benedetto)

    Jesse is pleased to be back at Lifeline. He earned his Master of Fine Arts in Shakespeare from Mary Baldwin College in association with the American Shakespeare Center. Jesse was recently seen as Dandelion and Kehaar in Lifeline’s Jeff Recommended production of Watership Down and Owen in That Pretty, Pretty… or, The Rape Play at Charnel House Theatre. You might have also seen Jesse on his bike or on the lake path training for the Chicago marathon.

  • Cathlyn Melvin (Eugenie)

    Cathlyn is delighted to make her Lifeline Theatre debut. She was most recently seen as Dale and Young Kate in Marisa Wegrzyn’s Hickorydickoryat Chicago Dramatists, and is currently part of an educational tour of Fractured Fairy Tales with GreatWorks Theatre Company. Regionally, Cathlyn has worked with the Milwaukee Rep, Youngblood Theatre Company, Two Weeks Productions, Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre, and Milwaukee Shakespeare. Cathlyn is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency, LLC.

  • Jenifer Tyler (Mercedes)

    Jenifer is a graduate of DePaul Theatre School and a Lifeline ensemble member since 2001. Most recently, at Lifeline, she was seen as Lady Julia in The Moonstone. She received a Non Equity Jeff Award for Outstanding Actress in a Principle Role, for her portrayal of Jane in Jane Eyre, and a nomination for her performance as Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night. Jenifer directed The Velveteen Rabbit for Lifeline’s KidSeries. She is a member emeritus of the writing-performance group The Sweat Girls and a teaching artist with Lifeline’s CPS residency program.

  • James Anthony Zoccoli (Fernand)

    James makes his Lifeline debut with this production. His autobiographical one-man comedy show Wiggerlover [whiteboy+blackdad=greyareas]debuted with the DCA Studio Theatre at the Chicago Cultural Center in February, 2010. Since then, he has presented his hysterical life story publicly in theaters and privately at schools all over the city; including a weekend at last year’s Fillet of Solo Festival. His other pet project, The Game Show Show… & Stuff! was named Best Late Night by Chicago Magazine two years in a row and will begin an extended run at the Mercury Theatre this fall. Local stage credits include work with Chicago Shakespeare, Next, Live Bait, Noble Fool, Lakeside Shakespeare, Emerald City, Adventure Stage, and as an ensemble member of Strawdog Theatre Company. Recent film credits include The ExpressKlya’s Law, and A Perfect Manhattan.

  • Scott T. Barsotti (Understudy)

    Scott is a playwright and actor originally from Pittsburgh, PA. Scott made his Lifeline debut in the spring as Fiver in Watership Down. Scott was also recently seen in The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll with The Chicago Mammals and WildClaw Theatre’s Carmilla at the DCA Storefront Theater. Other Chicago credits include: Curious Theatre Branch, Victory Gardens, WNEP Theater, Collaboraction, and Pavement Group. Scott’s plays include The RevenantsJet Black ChevroletMcMeekin Finds OutBrewed, and The Body Snatcher, and have been seen in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and New Orleans; his newest play, Kill Me, will premiere with WildClaw Theatre in early 2012. Scott is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists and a company member of WildClaw Theatre and Curious Theatre Branch.

  • Rachel Renee (Understudy)

    Rachel is thrilled to be working with Lifeline again after understudying for Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type last season. In the Chicago area, Rachel has performed with the Lyric Opera, Light Opera Works, Theatre Building Chicago, and Bailiwick Repertory, among others. In addition to movie, TV, and commercial appearances, Rachel has sung all over the world, visiting all seven continents on Japanese and British cruise ships. She’s sung with the Russian Folk Orchestra of Madison, WI; the Japanese Sakura Trio in Japan; and with West End Performer Anthony Stuart Lloyd in concert in England. Rachel is a member of NATS and the Chicago Cabaret Professionals.

  • Mandy Walsh (Understudy)

    Mandy is thrilled to be working with Lifeline again after appearing in last spring’s Watership Down. Other recent credits include Carmilla with Wildclaw Theatre, The Last Daughter of Oedipus with Babes with Blades, and The Ring Cycle with The Building Stage. She is a graduate of the theatre program at Columbia College and is also a continuing student at Black Box Acting Studio.

  • Christopher M. Walsh (Adaptor)

    Chris has been a member of Lifeline Theatre’s artistic ensemble since 2010. He has been seen on the Lifeline stage in Watership DownNeverwhereTreasure IslandBusman’s Honeymoon, and The Mark of Zorro, and he will be back on stage next winter in Hunger. Other recent acting credits include Louis Slotin Sonata (A Red Orchid), Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revenge (Backstage Theatre), Journey’s End (Griffin Theatre), and The Hound of the Baskervilles (City Lit). Chris is a continuing student at Black Box Acting Studio. The Count of Monte Cristo is Chris’ first credit as an adaptor.

  • Paul S. Holmquist (Director)

    Paul has been a Lifeline ensemble member since 2006. Directing credits on Lifeline’s Mainstage include The MoonstoneNeverwhereBusman’s Honeymoon, and The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Jeff Award Nomination: Director-Play). For Lifeline’s KidSeries, he directed Flight of the Dodo and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and will direct the upcoming musical Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Other directing credits include The Robber Bridegroom (Non-Equity Jeff Award Nomination: Director-Musical) and The Constant Wifewith Griffin Theatre Company, and Under Milk Wood with Caffeine Theatre. As an actor, Paul most recently appeared at Lifeline playing Hazel in Watership Down. Paul is a graduate of the BFA Acting program of The Theatre School at DePaul University and holds a Graduate Laban CMA from Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches and works.

  • Katie Adams (Stage Manager)

    Katie is trhilled to return to Lifeline after stage managing last season’s The Moonstone and the 2011 Fillet of Solo Festival. Other Chicago-area credits include productions with Steep Theatre, Roosevelt University, her alma mater, Northwestern University.

  • Aly Renee Amidei (Costume Designer)

    Aly is pleased to return as a Costume Designer after designing Watership Down. Aly is the Costume and Makeup Coordinator at the College of Dupage. She is also an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre, where she will be designing costumes for Old Times and Petrified Forest, and makeup for Duchess of Malfi this season. She is also the Artistic Director of Wildclaw Theatre, where she has designed the costumes for all of their shows and adapted their most recent play, J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. She will be designing costumes for Wildclaw’s next production, Scott T. Barsotti’s Kill Me. You can also see the notoriously stage-shy Aly performing as a foley artist in Wildclaw’s Deathscribe, our Fourth Annual Radio Play Festival on December 5th at the Mayne Stage right around the corner.

  • Cortney Hurley (Production Manager)

    Cortney is happy to be returning for her fifth season with Lifeline after working on such productions as The Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Mark of Zorro. Previous production management positions include the last four seasons at Strawdog Theatre, Ellen Under Glasswith 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 (since 2004).

  • Christopher Kriz (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    Chris works nationally as a composer and sound designer. In Chicago, he has designed over 200 productions for companies including Northlight, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, and TimeLine. Regional credits include the national tour of America Amerique (Jena Company) and the upcoming The Fall Of The House (Theatre Squared). Recent Chicago credits include Festen (Steep Theatre), Romeo and Juliet (First Folio), Around The World In 80 Days and Bad Dates (Fox Valley Rep), Educating Rita (Shattered Globe), and Bug(Redtwist). Upcoming productions include The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (Steppenwolf), Black Pearl Sings (Northlight), Cloud 9 (The Gift), and Old Times (Strawdog).

  • R&D Choreography: Richard Gilbert and David Gregory (Violence Design)

    R&D Choreography is having a great time working with another incredibly talented team at 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 eighty 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, Bailiwick, Blindfaith, Circle, First Folio, Griffin, National Pastimes, New American Theatre, Piven, Profiles, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, Theo Ubique, Trapdoor, and Vitalist.

  • Joe Schermoly (Scenic and Properties Designer; Technical Director)

    Joe is a set designer, technical director and painter and is very happy to be making his Lifeline set design debut after designing props for The Moonstone last year. His design work has been seen around Chicago at Griffin (No More Dead DogsPortThe Constant Wife), Strawdog (Master and MargaritaRichard III), Sinnerman Ensemble (Sweet Confinement), Eclipse (The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek) and more. He has also designed and built shows in London for The Finborough, Bush, and Gate theatres among others. Joe studied set design at Northwestern University and has received two After Dark Awards for his design work in Chicago. Upcoming work includes The Spirit Play with Strange Tree Company at the DCA and The Ugly One with The Sideshow Project.

  • Brandon Wardell (Lighting Designer)

    This is Brandon’s third design at Lifeline, following The Moonstone and Mrs. Caliban. Brandon is an Ensemble member with Backstage Theatre Co, Adventure Stage Chicago, and is an Artistic Associate at Steep Theatre. Recent lighting designs include Three Days of Rain(BSTC), Pornography (Steep), And A Child Shall Lead (ASC), Aunt Dan and Lemon (BSTC), and the US Premier of Harper Regan (Steep). Scenic designs include Baal (TUTA), Holes(ASC), In Arabia We’d All Be Kings (Steep), and Dracula (Building Stage). Brandon earned his MFA from Northwestern University and is on Faculty at Northern Illinois University.

From the Chicago Tribune

Classic ‘Cristo’ plays like a true adventure tale at Lifeline
September 20, 2011
By Kerry Reid

Ham, cheese, a generous portion of something sweet on top — these are the standard makings for the Monte Cristo sandwich, and many of the same elements converge in Alexandre Dumas’ classic revenge/adventure tale, “The Count of Monte Cristo.” But unlike its culinary counterpart, Christopher M. Walsh’s stellar adaptation of Dumas’ oft-told tale for Lifeline Theatre is streamlined for your health.

The result? A guilty theatrical pleasure you don’t have to atone for afterward. It’s zesty, good fun — colorful theatrical comfort food with enough philosophical seasoning and emotional heat to keep it from getting too sticky or soggy.

The storyline is still a bit convoluted, to be sure. Quick summary. Sailor Edmond Dantes has been wrongly imprisoned by three men for a variety of reasons: one lusts for his fiancee, another envies his shipboard position, the third — a prosecutor — needs to cover up his own father’s crimes. (A fourth has committed perhaps the worst crime of all — doing nothing in the face of his comrades’ evil plans.) Dantes finally escapes after 14 years in a dank cell, accumulates a fortune and a title, and sets in motion an inexorable scheme to punish his malefactors, who do not recognize the noble sailor within the mysterious and fabulously wealthy nobleman now cruising through their parlors.

But by excising a lot of the political details of life in post-Bonaparte France, as well as several subplots, Walsh and director Paul S. Holmquist carve Dumas’ nearly 500-page opus down to a 21/2-hour show that feels even faster. As one character says of the Count, “He’s building a great machine and we are his cogs and wheels.” The cogs and wheels of Holmquist’s ensemble make this contraption hum like a well-tuned Bugatti, and both the performances and the script benefit from a healthy dose of self-awareness. After listening to the Count deliver one of his trademark aphoristic speeches, his young friend Albert (Chris Daley) explains, “He talks like that all the time.”

Chris Hainsworth, blessed with a poetic and improbable abundance of dark hair, brings matinee-idol sex appeal and an air of tortured existentialist repression to the title character. Whether moving chess pieces around on a board or watching an opera from a balcony seat, Hainsworth’s Count is a man who takes voyeuristic delight in seeing others fall into the traps he has laid — only to find that though revenge is a dish best served cold, it still can be hard to digest if one overindulges.

Among the villains, John Ferrick’s weaselly banker, Danglars, is a particular highlight. (Really, who doesn’t want to see fraudulent financiers get their comeuppance?) Don Bender does delightful double duty as the caddish Caderousse, the man who could have saved Dantes but didn’t, and as Abbe Faria, the seemingly addled old priest who provides Dantes with an education, an escape plan and startup money for his adventures in retaliation.

The women hold their own too — particularly Jenifer Tyler’s Mercedes, Dantes’ sympathetic former fiancee, and Cathlyn Melvin’s Eugenie Danglars — a self-assured proto-feminist and bohemian. Aly Renee Amidei’s lush costumes add visual spark and fire, while Joe Schermoly’s sturdy and spare unitary set, with its tiny dungeon grate on the bottom and semicircle of windows above, physically embodies the story’s central conundrum — balancing the forces of dark and light in a world filled with wrongdoing.



From Time Out Chicago

September 28, 2011
By Oliver Sava

One of only a few local theaters specializing in literary adaptations, Lifeline is used to condensing dense plots into stage-friendly narratives. For his adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s classic revenge tale, Lifeline ensemble member Christopher M. Walsh wisely intercuts the title character’s past with scenes from his present-day mission of vengeance. The first act is occasionally bogged down with exposition, but by gradually revealing the transformation of naive sailor Edmond Dantès into the cunning Count of Monte Cristo, Walsh builds the suspense leading into the action-packed second act.

Paul S. Holmquist’s sharp production rarely lags, with a cast that understands the story’s stakes and tackles them with confidence. The rousing music by Christopher Kriz helps create an almost operatic sense of grandeur, while Joe Schermoly’s simple but elegant set design and Aly Renee Amidei’s lavish costumes bring the early-1800s setting to life. In the title role, Chris Hainsworth gives an intense performance that seamlessly transitions between Edmond’s defeated fragility and the Count’s cold determination. Jenifer Tyler brings a genuine sense of loss and regret as Edmond’s ex-fiancée, Mercedes, longing for the man she once loved but unable to accept what he’s become. After murdering the men who wrongly imprisoned him, Edmond loses the thing he’s been fighting for all along.



From Chicago Theater Beat

‘Count’ a complex and concise masterpiece
September 21, 2011
By Katy Walsh

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I cuddled up with a blanket and became completely engrossed in a classic tale of vengeance. Lifeline Theatre presents a world premiere adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo. On the day of his wedding, Edmond is dragged from the church and falsely imprisoned. During his incarceration, he accesses the knowledge and resources to ruin his enemies. He returns home a changed man. He is now the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. The Count infiltrates the society that wronged him. He is now a major player. The game is on. Having been robbed of his life, the Count has nothing to lose. Everybody is going down… including him. Lifeline’s The Count of Monte Cristo is a complex and concise masterpiece.

The novel, by Alexandre Dumas, is a sub-plot rich epic with ancillary characters and long, fancy French titles. Instead of streamlining the play to just the Count’s retaliation, adaptor Christopher M. Walsh (no relation) ambitiously includes the Rogue’s rogue companions. Walsh successfully contains the multiple storylines within a solid framework. He boils each scenario down to its essence. Every word is utilitarian in the tight dialogue. Director Paul S. Holmquist paces the action like a well synchronized dance. Aided by Christopher Kriz’ original music and sound design, the intrigue mounts and the scenes transition effortlessly. The second act is particularly riveting as secrets lead to bloodshed. Holmquist starts the second act with a series of silent scenes recapping who’s who on the Count’s most wanted list. Kriz‘ dark and thrilling soundtrack sets the tone for providence. And R&D Choreography brings it with gasp-worthy fight scenes.

In a role he was born to play, Chris Hainsworth (Edmond) is the Count of Monte Cristo. Hainsworth’s performance captivates! As the Count, he plays it sophisticated, with a hint of mischief. For a man-hell-bent-on-destruction, he still finds the dead-pan humor in a statement. As Edmond, Hainworth’s anger and nobility conflict in his take-no-prisoners plan. It’s this contrasting duality that makes for an outstanding and unforgettable performance. The entire talented ensemble supports bringing this story to life. A few additional stand-outs are the affected, sleazy Danglers (John Ferrick), looming, smarmy Caderousse (Don Bender) and loony, fatherly Abbe Faria (also Don Bender).

Just in time for Fall, Lifeline Theatre’s offering is a classic page turner. Lifeline will wrap you up in a cozy blanket and spoon-feed you conspiracy with a side of spite. DELECTABLE! No one is going to be able to put The Count of Monte Cristo down!



From Windy City Times

September 28, 2011
By Mary Shen Barnidge

You can almost hear the advertisement trailer: “He was torn from his bride on his wedding day, only to be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit! Now he’s back—and he wants justice!” Who cares that Alexandre Dumas’ novel dates back over a century and a half? The wronged hero in search of vindication is a parable for all times and places, evidenced by the many popular stage, film, television and even anime adaptations since its publication in 1844.

Although the story is premised on the return of the ex-convict Edmond Dantes, now traveling under the title of the Count of Monte Cristo, who arrives in Paris accompanied by two comrades also seeking payback for injuries inflicted upon them, this is no blood-soaked Jacobean thriller. Unlike those invoking divine “providence” to defend their selfish goals, their nemesis’ exile has taught him the morality inherent in that word, as well as the responsibility of its agents to discharge their duties wisely, punishing the wicked, while sparing the innocent and repentant.

Far from diminishing the fascination of witnessing his scheme to inflict suffering on his enemies—compared more than once to the manipulations of chess-pieces on a board—the free will proffered by wealth, education and a legal alias serves to increase the tension of anticipation. How far will our champion go in his resolve? Will he be ruthless in his vengeance like his sanguine companion, the abandoned Benedetto? Or will he stop at disclosure of the facts surrounding past events, like the deposed Ottoman princess Haidee? The guilty, too—how will they respond upon being exposed? Will they accept their fate or remain remorseless to the end?

Christopher M. Walsh’s premiere adaptation for Lifeline Theatre deftly packs a horde of information into a brief playing time to forge a coherent narrative line keeping us firmly grounded in the action despite subplots and flashbacks, much as Joe Schermoly’s scenic design on the disproportionately vertical stage zips us from Paris to Rome via Marseilles with nary a trace of whiplash. The cast of stalwart company regulars, led by Chris Hainsworth as the Byronesque Dantes, likewise ensures that we understand each characters’ motive for every second of the two and a half hours required for the intrigue to progress to its still uncertain, but nonetheless satisfying, conclusion.