A Tale of Two Cities

EXTENDED through April 13, 2014!
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm

“A taut, suspenseful adaptation that captures the romantic idealism, dark humor, and social outrage that drive this ripping good yarn”  –Chicago Reader

“Lifeline Theatre’s latest page-to-stage triumph”  –Stage and Cinema

The Reign of Terror sweeps through Paris, destroying both the high and low, and two Londoners are confronted with impossible choices. Will former aristocrat Charles Darnay abandon his family and brave the revolutionary storm to protect an innocent man? And can depressive barrister Sydney Carton find the strength to make the ultimate sacrifice for the unrequited love of his life? Darnay and Carton join a host of unforgettable characters in this passionate tale of soldiers and servants, revolutionaries and the nobility, set against a backdrop of violent social upheaval. An epic story of resurrection and redemption, in a world premiere adaptation based on the 1859 novel.

A world premiere based on the novel by Charles Dickens 
Adapted by Christopher M. Walsh 
Directed by Elise Kauzlaric

Highlights from A Tale of Two Cities 

  • Nicholas Bailey (Charles Darnay)

    Nicholas returns to Lifeline after appearing in last season’s The Woman in White. Other Chicago credits include A Soldier’s PlayBang the Drum Slowly (Raven), Dirty Blonde (BoHo), and The Maid of Orleans(Strangeloop). Regional credits include the world premiere of Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club (Arizona Theatre Company), Much Ado About NothingThe Matchmaker (Indiana Festival Theatre), and The Fox on the Fairway (Old Log Theater). Film/TV credits include Scrooge & MarleyConquest of America, and various commercials. He is represented by Big Mouth Talent.

  • Joe Bianco (The Resurrection Man, Apr 10-13)

    This is Joe’s first time working with Lifeline and he couldn’t be happier to be here. Most recently, he has appeared in Merry Wives of Windsor at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Other CST credits include Timon of AthensOthello: The Remix, and Funk It Up About Nothin’. Other Chicago credits include: AmadeusRichard IIIHenry V (Oak Park Festival Theatre); The Comedy of ErrorsSpace Wars (Piccolo Theatre); ArtMy Kinda TownNightmares in Paradise 4Fight Night: The Killing (Nothing Special Productions); Cold, Cold Feet (Diamante Productions), and Fish Story (winning radio play of Deathscribe 2012). Regional credits include The Front Steps (Alley Stage). Joe graduated with a BFA in acting at Millikin University.

  • Melissa Engle (The Seamstress)

    Melissa is thrilled to be back at Lifeline Theatre where she was last seen in The Picture of Dorian Gray and will also be seen in the upcoming production of Monstrous Regiment. Chicago credits: OOHRAH!(LiveWire/Steppenwolf); Henry V (Oak Park Festival); Romeo & Juliet(Shattered Globe); Feydeau Si Deau (Theatre Wit); Dancing at LughnasaThe Seagull, and Book Of Days (Raven Theatre); The (W)hole Thing (Stage Left); and The Stinky Cheese Man (Griffin), as well as work with Steppenwolf, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago Shakespeare and Collaboraction. Regional credits include Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Brown County Playhouse, Connecticut Repertory Theatre. Melissa is represented by Paonessa Talent.

  • Dan Granata (Monsieur Defarge)

    Dan returns to the Lifeline stage following appearances in HungerMrs. Caliban, and Neverwhere. Other recent Chicago stage credits include The Master & Margarita (Strawdog), K. (The Hypocrites), The League of Awesome (Factory), and Arcadia (New Leaf, Non-Equity Jeff Nomination: Supporting Actor). Dan is a contributor to the weekly live magazine The Paper Machete and a member of the Improvised Star Trek.

  • Chris Hainsworth (John Barsad, The Marquis St. Evremonde))

    Chris has been a proud member of the Lifeline Ensemble since 2010. Acting credits at Lifeline include Talking It OverTreasure IslandNeverwhereThe Count of Monte CristoThe City & The CityThe Three Musketeers, and The Killer Angels. He also adapted Elise Blackwell’s Hunger for Lifeline and will be adapting Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment in Summer of 2014. Other acting credits around town include Faith Healer (Uma Productions), The Artist Needs A Wife (the side project), Scenes from the Big Picture (Seanachaí), and The Dreams in the Witch House (WildClaw Theatre). Chris is also Ensemble Emeritus at Strawdog Theatre, where he appeared in Julius CaesarMerchant of VeniceImpossible MarriageKnives in HensDetective Story, and Marathon ’33.

  • Josh Hambrock (Sydney Carton)

    Josh is thrilled to make his Lifeline Theatre debut with A Tale of Two Cities. Elsewhere in Chicago, he has worked with InFusion Theatre (Fight Girl Battle WorldPluto is Listening), Backstage Theatre Company (A Scent of FlowersMemory), TimeLine Theatre (Enron), Circle Theatre (The Philadelphia Story), and The State Theatre (Moby DickVoodoo Chalk Circle), among others. Regional credits include seasons at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and Indiana Festival Theatre.

  • Carolyn Klein (Madame Defarge, Feb 14-Apr 6)

    Carolyn last appeared as Josie in A Moon for the Misbegotten with Seanachaí Theatre Company, where she is a proud Ensemble member. Other Chicago credits: Dancing at LughnasaScenes from the Big Picture(Seanachaí); King Phycus (Strange Tree Group, Non-Equity Jeff Award: Best Ensemble); Macbeth (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Next Theatre); Faith Healer (Buffalo Theatre Ensemble); Tooth of CrimeSpring Awakening (Strawdog Theatre); The Radiant Abyss(Profiles Theatre); Henry VBlood Wedding (The Hypocrites); Sexual Perversity in Chicago(Theo Ubique); and The Dreams in the Witch House (Wildclaw), to name a few. She is the voice of Jenny O’Toole in Dead Man’s Hand (Xbox) and has an MFA from IU-Bloomington.

  • Katie McLean Hainsworth (Miss Pross)

    Katie has been a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2006, and she has appeared in many productions, including The Three MusketeersHungerNeverwhereMariette in EcstasyTalking It OverCrossing CaliforniaThe True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! (2007), Gaudy NightTrust Me On ThisFar From the Madding CrowdBongo Larry and 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 is proud to have directed Watership DownJohnny Tremain, and The Cricket in Times Square for the Lifeline stage. Katie has performed in Chicago with Black Sheep Productions, Blindfaith, the Hypocrites, Greasy Joan, and Bailiwick Repertory, among others, since arriving in Chicago in 1993.

  • John Henry Roberts (The Resurrection Man, Feb 14-Apr 6)

    John Henry is very pleased to return to the Lifeline stage, where he’s previously appeared in HungerThe Moonstone, and Wuthering Heights. He is a member of Strawdog Theatre Company, where his credits include Big LoveOld TimesAristocrats (Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Actor in a Supporting Role), Three Sisters (After Dark Award; Outstanding Ensemble), and Detective Story (Non-Equity Jeff Award: Ensemble). Other credits include The Crownless KingThe Iron Stag King, and Wilson Wants It All with The House Theatre; Three Days of Rain with BackStage Theatre Company; and To the Green Fields Beyond at Writers’ Theatre (Jeff Award nomination: Ensemble). He is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.

  • Katherine Schwartz (Madame Defarge, Apr 10-13)

    Katherine is thrilled to be working with Lifeline Theatre in A Tale of Two Cities! Most recently, Katherine has performed with Seanachaí Theatre Company in In Pigeon House, Shattered Globe Theatre in Orpheus Descending, and with Factory Theater as the title character in The Gray Girl. Other credits include The Women (Circle Theatre), The Book of Liz(Chemically Imbalanced Comedy), and Cherrywood (Mary Arrchie Theatre). She has also performed with Navy Pier, Piper’s Alley, and around the city in various interactive theatre projects, staged readings, and sketch shows. Katherine is a proud graduate of the Conservatory at Act One Studios and holds a B.A. in English Literature and Communication Studies from the University of Michigan.

  • Maggie Scrantom (Lucie Manette)

    Maggie is thrilled to return to Lifeline Theatre after appearing in The Woman in White last season. She most recently appeared in the Living Room Playmakers’ Night Lights and The Runaways’ Friedrich Schiller Writes The Robbers. Other Chicago credits include As You Like It and Richard II(u) (Two Pence Shakespeare), Honest/Fair (Shattered Globe), Steel Magnolias (St. Sebastian), Artist Gumbo (Dramatist Personae), The Boy in Black (Chicago Fusion), El Stories and Over My Dead Body (The Waltzing Mechanics, where she is proud member). Maggie received her B.A.with honors in English and Theatre from The University of Iowa, studied at LAMDA’s Summer Shakespeare Intensive, and recently attended the Atlantic Acting School Summer Intensive.

  • Sean Sinitski (Doctor Manette)

    Sean is pleased to be returning to Lifeline Theatre. He was member of the late Defiant Theatre, where he performed such roles as Hamlet, Macduff, and a guy that got his thumb stolen in Action Movie: the Play! Other Chicago credits: The Killer AngelsThe Three MusketeersThe MoonstoneNeverwhereTreasure IslandThe Picture of Dorian Gray (Lifeline); RabbitFellow Travelers (Stage Left); Timon of AthensThe Madness of King George (Chicago Shakespeare); Merchant of VeniceDetective StoryCherry Orchard(Strawdog); Accidental Death of an AnarchistThe Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer(Next Theater); Henry VBalm in Gilead (Hypocrites); Back of the ThroatCaravaggio (Silk Road); Doctor’s Dilemma (Writers Theatre); and King Lear (Lakeside Shakespeare).

  • Jess Berry (Understudy)

    Jess is delighted to be working with Lifeline Theatre for the first time. Chicago credits include Woman in Mind directed by Steve Scott (Eclipse Theatre), PUNK ROCK directed by Jon Berry (Griffin Theatre, Non-Equity Jeff Award: Best Ensemble), A Scent of Flowers (BackStage Theatre Co.), and Cut to the Chase (Artistic Home Theatre). Ms. Berry is a proud graduate of the Artistic Home Training Studio.

  • Luke Daigle (Understudy)

    Luke is delighted to be returning to Lifeline Theatre after understudying The Killer Angels last fall. Luke was most recently seen as Eric Birling in An Inspector Calls at Remy Bumppo Theatre. Other credits include When the Rain Stops Falling (Circle Theatre, Non-Equity Jeff Award: Best Production ), Sebastian in Twelfth Night (Oak Park Festival Theatre), Big Love(Strawdog Theatre), and others. He has also worked with First Folio Theatre, BoHo, Illinois Theatre Center, and Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. Luke received his B.F.A. in performance from the University of Idaho.

  • Christopher M. Walsh (Adaptor)

    Christopher is a proud member of the artistic ensemble at Lifeline Theatre, where he previously adapted The City & The City and The Count of Monte Cristo. In 2012 he was a finalist in WildClaw Theatre’s annual horror radio play contest, Deathscribe. He has appeared onstage at Lifeline eight times, including last year’s The Three Musketeers and The Woman In White. Other recent acting credits include Street Justice: Condition Red with The Factory Theater and The Crownless King with The House Theatre of Chicago. He recently made his television debut on an episode of ABC’s Betrayal, and will make his film debut later in 2014 in Kathryn Upside Down. He will return to Lifeline for the Summer 2014 production of Monstrous Regiment.

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Director)

    Elise has been a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2005. At Lifeline, she has directed The Woman in WhitePride and PrejudiceWuthering HeightsMariette in Ecstasy (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination: Direction) , Arnie the Doughnut, and The Emperor’s Groovy New Clothes; adapted The Velveteen Rabbit and Half Magic; coached dialects for many productions; and appeared onstage in NeverwhereQueen LuciaTalking it OverStrong Poison, and many others. Outside of Lifeline, she directed Seanachaí’s production of Dancing at Lughnasa, dialect coached numerous shows around Chicago, and has appeared on stage at Goodman Theatre, Apple Tree, City Lit, Circle Theatre, First Folio, and Griffin Theatre, where she received a Non-Equity Jeff Nomination for Supporting Actress for On the Shore of the Wide World.

  • Shelby Glasgow (Stage Manager)

    Shelby is thrilled to be back this year with Lifeline Theatre after stage managing both Fillet of Solo and The Killer Angels in 2013. Other Chicago stage management credits include The Burden of Not Having a TailMaria/StuartIdomeneus (Sideshow Theatre Company); lady M. (the side project); and Broken Glass (Redtwist Theatre). Shelby received her BFA in Stage Management from the University of Central Florida.

  • Benjamin W. Dawson (Production Manager)

    Prior to coming to Chicago, Ben served as the Production Safety Coordinator with The Santa Fe Opera and as Art Director for several television series with networks like Discovery, PBS, MTV and VH1. In Chicago, Ben has served, among other things, as Production Manager for Pine Box Theater and WildClaw Theatre; as Technical Director Haven Theatre and The Strange Tree Group; and as the Scene Shop Foreman at Goodman Theatre. In addition to his work with Lifeline, Ben is also a Company Member and the Production Manager for Sideshow Theatre Company and the Assistant Technical Director for Lookingglass Theatre Company.

  • Diane D. Fairchild (Lighting Designer)

    Diane is excited to make her Lifeline debut. Other area credits include productions at Rivendell, BoHo, Next, TimeLine, Northlight, Chicago Dramatists, City Lit, Redmoon, side project, Court Theatre, and Michigan Shakespeare Festival. Diane is a proud member of USA829, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, an Artistic Affiliate with BoHo Theatre, an Artistic Associate of Next Theatre, and adjunct faculty at The School of the Art Institute.

  • Jesse Gaffney (Properties Designer)

    Jesse has been working in the Chicago area for over four years and is excited to be back at Lifeline after working on HungerPride and PrejudiceThe City & The City; and Click, Clack, BOO. Elsewhere in the Chicago area she has worked with Silk Road Rising (Resident Designer), Immediate Family, 16th Street (Artistic Associate), Congo Square, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Remy Bumppo and Victory Gardens among others. Outside of Chicago Jesse worked for Allenberry Playhouse (PA), The Arrow Rock Lyceum (MO), Peninsula Players (WI), and Notre Dame Shakespeare (IN).

  • Andrew Hansen (Original Music & Sound Design)

    Andy returns to Lifeline where he previously collaborated on HungerWuthering HeightsTreasure Island, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Andy is an Associate Artist at TimeLine Theatre where recent productions include The Normal HeartTo Master The Art, and 33 Variations. He works regularly with Writers Theatre, American Players Theatre, and the annual production of A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre.

  • Matt Hawkins (Fight Choreographer)

    Matt is a Chicago-based director, actor, and fight choreographer. He has worked with South Coast Rep, The Kennedy Center, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Royal Shakespeare Company, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakes, Lookingglass, Court, Redmoon, Writers’, Steep, Neo-Futurists, Side Project, Pine Box, and The Hypocrites. He is an Adjunct Professor of Theater at Loyola and Northwestern Universities, and has taught at Act One Studios, University of Chicago, Roosevelt, and the University of Iowa. He is a Founding Member of The House Theatre of Chicago, an Artistic Associate with Strawdog Theatre, and the recipient of five Jeff Awards. Hawkins holds a BFA in Acting from SMU and an MFA in Directing from The University of Iowa. He is married to Stacy Stoltz.

  • Elsa Hiltner (Costume Designer)

    Elsa is delighted to work on A Tale of Two Cities. Among her favorite Chicago credits arePaulusNight Over Erzinga (Silk Road Rising); This is WarAftermath (Signal Ensemble Theatre); Crime Scene: A Chicago AnthologyJon1001 (Collaboraction); El Grito del Bronx(Goodman / Collaboraction / Teatro Vista); Driving Miss DaisyJeeves Takes a BowTwelfth Night (First Folio Theatre). Regional credits include Next Act Theatre (Milwaukee), Balagan Theatre (Seattle), Book It Repertory Theatre (Seattle). Elsa is a Company Member of Collaboraction and Signal Ensemble Theatre, and is an Artistic Associate of First Folio Theatre.

  • Joe Schermoly (Scenic Designer & Technical Director)

    Joe is a set designer, technical director and a company member with Griffin Theatre. His design work has been seen at Lifeline Theatre (The Count of Monte CristoThe City & The City), Griffin Theatre (Spelling BeeFlare PathPunk RockNo More Dead DogsPortConstant Wife), Theatre Wit (Completeness), Seanachaí (The Seafarer), Strawdog Theatre (Duchess of MalfiMaster and MargaritaRichard III), Sideshow Theatre (IdomeneusThe Ugly One), Eclipse (Beyond the HorizonThe 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 and two Jeff Nominations.

  • Kristen P. Ahern (Assistant Costume Designer)

    Kristen is excited to be working with Lifeline for the first time and assisting Elsa again. Some of Kristen’s favorite Chicago credits include designing Floyd Collins at Bohemian Theatre Ensemble and Taming of the Shrew at Muse of Fire. She is also the shop manager at Dominican University, where she has designed costumes for The Drowsy ChaperoneRent, and many others. Kristen is the current Artistic Director of Strange Bedfellows Theatre, where she has designed and co-produced productions since the company’s founding.

  • Spencer Ryan Diedrick (Assistant Director)

    Spencer is overjoyed to work with Lifeline Theatre again, having interned here this past summer. Prior to that, he served as artistic intern under Nick Sandys and provided the lobby display for Remy Bumppo’s Creditors, as well as assistant directing for Nick Bowling in TimeLine’s My Kind of Town. Other favorite credits include The SentinelsJuly 7, 1994; and The Shipment (Columbia College Chicago); Honor (Abbey Fest XXIV); and the feast: an intimate Tempest (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and Redmoon Theater). Spencer is also a proud affiliate of the Back Room Shakespeare Project (Much Ado about Nothing).

  • Autumn McConnico (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Autumn is proud to work again with Lifeline and Shelby after assistant stage managing The Killer Angels. She is a Lifeline storyteller and past intern, and holds a BA in Theater and Performance Studies from the University of Chicago, where she co-curated the quarterly Theater[24] festival. Previously, she has worked as a playwright, director, sound designer, and teaching artist.

From the Chicago Reader

February 24, 2014
By Albert Williams


Charles Dickens’s 1859 novel, set during the Reign of Terror that followed the 1789 French Revolution, comes to the stage in a taut, suspenseful adaptation that captures the romantic idealism, dark humor, and social outrage that drive this ripping good yarn. Playwright Christopher M. Walsh and director Elise Kauzlaric hone in on the core of Dickens’s sprawling story: the triangular relationship between a young Frenchwoman (daughter of a former political prisoner) and the two men who love her (a dissolute English lawyer and a French aristocrat trying to atone for his family’s misdeeds). Designers Joe Schermoly (set) and Diane D. Fairchild (lights) have created a stylized minimalist environment that keeps the tale’s frequent changes in locale clear, and the ten-member ensemble delivers intense, compelling performances. Particularly good are John Henry Roberts as the narrator; Carolyn Klein as the fierce, vengeful revolutionary Madame Defarge; and Josh Hambrock as Sydney Carton, the feckless Englishman who is redeemed by his self-sacrifice.

From Stage and Cinema

France Trims Its 1% With The Guillotine
February 24, 2014
By Lawrence Bommer

2014 has been as good to 1859 as it was to the late 18th century. Christopher M. Walsh’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel — a saga of unexpected heroism during the French Revolution — is Lifeline Theatre latest page-to-stage triumph. Dickens put faces to history, and in 150 minutes Walsh’s new version “rereads” the work into stirring action. Thanks to John Henry Roberts as the “Resurrection Man” narrator, Walsh also adds an acerbic point of view. (The R.M. sees folly on both sides: Our sole redemption is, it seems, our peculiar preference for “our better angels” — as Lincoln said at the same time — over our worser instincts.)

No crude condensation mars Lifeline’s supple restoration: Its current swiftly propels the citizens of two cities into crises and confrontations between 1775 to 1790. Coherent as it makes the sprawling story of a feckless lawyer’s ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loved but lost, this Tale of Two Cities also drives home Dickens’ sharply-detailed contrast of the best and worst of times: More than the English channel separates the Parisians, divided between a mob mentality and a fascist aristocracy, and Londoners, comparative moderates who pluckily work to secure justice beyond Dr. Manette’s release from the Bastille.

That good doctor must return to the scene of the crime to save an innocent man from the busy tumbrels that lead to an overachieving guillotine. But in Dickens’ love triangle there are two more innocent men. Charles Darnay may have repudiated his lineage to the Marquis St. Evremonde, cruelest of the ancient regime’s malevolent masters, but, nonetheless, this fiancé of lovely Lucy, daughter of the doctor, finds himself imprisoned by the implacable Defarges and the Revolutionary Tribunal. His one hope lies in the man who defended him years before, Sydney Carton, the self-deprecating, drunken wastrel of an attorney. But Sydney’s one stake in life or claim to the future is his hopeless adoration of Lucy, the love of his life who gave herself to the rival that Sydney must save. By story’s end this strange savior has found a new way to stake that claim. It’s one of the great renunciation scenes in 19th century literature.

Happily, Elise Kauzlaric’s staging is as driven as the plot. As the at times rather matter-of-fact Lucie Manette, Maggie Scrantom rises to the occasion as devotion confers courage. Playing the persecuted and brain-broken Dr. Manette, “called to life” after 18 years in the Bastille, Sean Sinitski delivers the pathos of a promising physician imprisoned for knowing too much about the hateful Evremondes. Carolyn Klein breathes hell and damnation as Madame Defarge, her well-deserved demise as satisfactory as it ever felt on the page. Deserving merit finds its natural home in Nicholas Bailey’s stalwart Charles Darnay, who bears a necessary resemblance to the semi-suicidal Sydney — an interpretation that is not always the case in stage and film adaptations of this work. In the complicated role of a survivor who discovers a greater glory (“a far, far better thing” indeed), Josh Hambrock restores Sydney’s self-respect, with nothing becoming his life so much as how he leaves it.

Kauzlaric leaves nothing to chance, crafting stirring support from Katie McLean Hainsworth as Miss Pross, the feisty and very British governess, Chris Hainsworth as a predatory patrician and unscrupulous spy, and Dean Granata as Monsieur Defarge, a henpecked radical who should overthrow his wife as much as Louis XVI. Roberts’ sardonic narrator weaves it together as seamlessly as Mme. Defarge does her dangerous knitting.

Has Dickens imagined the future as much as the past? At first Occupy Wall Street seemed to be more than just a blast from the past. But no Bastille has fallen: We’re left with a realm as divided as anything France endured 225 years ago.

From Examiner.com

Lifeline brings A Tale of Two Cities to life
March 16, 2014
By Janet Arvia


For more than 30 seasons, Lifeline Theatre has created its niche as a company that launches original adaptations of literary classics. Continuing this tradition is its world premiere production of A Tale of Two Cities.

Unlike most of Charles Dickens’s novels which are set in Victorian England, A Tale of Two Cities takes place in London and Paris during the Reign of Terror. It’s a story that deals with dualities as stated in the opening line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Juxtaposed behavior unfolds as persecuted French peasants turn into brutal oppressors and a British barrister who spends his life as a drunken cynic greets death in such a magnanimous way, he becomes one of literature’s most revered (and law-breaking) heroes.

All this (and more) is conveyed in Christopher M. Walsh’s tight adaptation. Despite a deliberate start, the play picks up speed and suspense with a climactic close prior to intermission. The second half successfully delivers plot pay-offs via character coincidences that tie together in one big Dickensian bow, ending with the work’s prophetic and poetic line, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

More than 150 years have passed since A Tale of Two Cities first appeared in 31 monthly installments yet its political observations, dramatic action, comical comments, and romantic sacrifices remain fresh thanks to the collective performances by Josh Hambrock as Sydney Carton and ensemble members Katie McLean Hainsworth and Chris Hainsworth.

Maggie Scrantom adds depth to Lucie Manette, John Henry Roberts shows versatility as the Resurrection Man, and Carolyn Klein makes a convincing Madame Defarge. Rounding out the solid cast are Sean Sinitski as Doctor Manette, Nicholas Bailey as Charles Darnay, Melissa Engle as the Seamstress, and Dan Granata as Monsieur Defarge.

Under the skillful direction of Elise Kauzlaric and technical direction of Scenic Designer Joe Schermoly, A Tale of Two Cities makes good on Lifeline’s mission to stage sprawling stories in an intimate space.

From Time Out Chicago

February 26, 2014
By Suzanne Scanlon

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” So begins the Resurrection Man (John Henry Roberts) as our eloquent narrator for Lifeline Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. Adapted for the stage by Lifeline’s Christopher M. Walsh, and directed by Elise Kauzlaric, the production foregrounds not just Dickens’s belletristic prose, but a sentence-level parallelism reflecting the doubling of protagonists: the depressed Englishman, Carton (Josh Hambrock), and the elegant, gentle Frenchman Darnay (Nicholas Bailey).

Their relationship does much to drive the plot, leading us to the moments that feel most alive. Kauzlaric’s staging of the end of Act I has the fuming patriots ready to storm the Bastille; with less of Hugo’s notorious miserables, these revolutionaries are rabid, menacing. The second act ends with even more electricity, as our hero faces the guillotine, and, he trusts, the mercy of his Christian god.

Some of the Dickensian plot convolutions, together with multiple underdeveloped characters, feel less worthwhile on stage than they might on the page. Still, the actors are uniformly strong: Darnay and Carton (whose rousing, elegiac final speech sends goosebumps) play their doubles with alacrity, and others (including Maggie Scrantom as Lucie Manette and Sean Sinitski as Doctor Manette) bring even the less detailed characters to resonant life. Though inconsistently rendered, in the moments where the power of Dickens’s text meets the power of theatrical craft, this Tale is something to behold.

From Windy City Times

March 5, 2014
By Mary Shen Barnidge

A man who doesn’t think that he deserves love can never be loved by others — and therein lies the paradox of tragic romantic heroes in literature from Cyrano de Bergerac to the present day. What distinguishes the two suitors to Miss Lucie Manette in the love triangle that anchors Charles Dickens’ novel is that Charles Darnay declares his affection and then asks the lady to marry him, while Sydney Carton, after confessing same, expresses relief that his devotion is certain to be unreturned. What’s a girl to say to that?

This is not Jane Austen’s England, however, where such domestic tangles are quickly resolved, but a nation menaced by global unrest preceding cataclysmic social upheaval, both across the channel in allied France and across the Atlantic in its U.S. colonies, during an era still fresh in the memories of Dickens’ readers. French expatriates like Darnay and Lucie’s own father cannot escape their connections with a country embroiled in near-anarchy, leaving their salvation in the hands of heroic British sympathizers, bred of upright societies where masters and servants share a united moral accord.

Christopher M. Walsh’s adaptation facilitates the multiple dimensions of his epic narrative through the introduction of a protean Everyman, dubbed “The Resurrection Man” (euphemism for a “corpse-snatcher”), to play all of the commoners, and to act as our guide to the volatile world of coups d’état. His commentary allows Walsh to focus on the intrigue associated with a Parisian merchant family’s revenge upon the estranged Darnay’s aristocratic ancestors — a vendetta that will endanger him and those he loves, while exacting terrible risks in unexpected quarters.

Fitting big stories into small spaces is Lifeline Theatre’s specialty, its stage’s restrictive floor dimensions and high ceilings easily accommodating 10 actors portraying citizens on two continents ( with the assistance of Elise Kauzlaric’s dialect instruction and Andrew Hansen’s audio score that replicates the descent of the guillotine blade with chilling accuracy ). John Henry Roberts deftly keeps us apprised of his diverse personae with never a trace of disruptive jocularity, his unswerving focus matched by an ensemble capable of riveting our attention for the swift-paced two-and-a-half hours necessary before the villains are dispatched, the innocent rescued and the noble rewarded for their sacrifice.

From Chicago Theatre Review

A Dickensian Delight at Lifeline Theatre
March 7, 2014
By Lazlo Collins

Highly Recommended

“Lifeline Theatre’s ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is a suspenseful and emotional journey to the past. A winning (Christopher M Walsh) adaptation of this classic story is brought to a rich life… This Lifeline production takes the heart of the story and treats it lovingly and with respect. Its simple story telling and terrific acting make this a great production. The direction by Elise Kauzlaric makes some beautiful images throughout this satisfying adaptation. The casting is perfect. Not a weak link in the group… From the opening moments to the closing heart wrenching moments, it is pure Dickens; but with a swiftness and light. This classic should not be missed.”

From chicagocritic.com

Sprawling novel effectively comes to life at Lifeline Theatre
February 26, 2014
By Tom Williams


Adapter Christopher M. Walsh skillfully reduced Charles Dickens’ sprawling 1859 novel into a fine stage production now playing at Lifeline Theatre. They specialize in mounting terrific stage versions of novels. Their A Tale of Two Cites, directed by Elise Kauzlaric, continues the fine work of bringing classic novels to life on stage.

A Tale of Two Cities is set in Paris and London in 1775 during The Reign of Terror that swept through Paris that ignited the French Revolution that led to the downfall of the French aristocracy. We meet victims of both the aristocracy and the revolutionaries as many suffered the guillotine as social and political change swept France.

We meet Monsieur Defarge (Dan Granata) and his wife Madame Defarge (Carolyn Klein) — two fledgling revolutionaries as they aide Doctor Manette (Sean Sinitski) — a victim of 18 years imprisonment by the King by reuniting him with his daughter Lucie (Maggie Scrantom). Together with Miss Pross, (Katie Hainsworth) Luce’s governess, the three migrate to London to start a new life in freedom.

Also leaving Paris for London is the heir to the estate of the Marquis St. Evremonde, now known as Charles Darney (Nicholas Bailey) after he leaves the estate in the hands of his butler (John Henry Roberts). Once in London, Darney meets and falls in love with Lucie Manette after she helps him win a court case from anti-government charges leveled against him. Darney’s lawyer, Sydney Carlton (Josh Hambrock) also falls for Lucie as the two look-alike men court the lovely Lucie.

As life becomes pleasant for the Manette’s, Darney and somewhat for Carlton, The Reign of Terror rages on in Paris. Darney receives a letter from the servant who is running his former estate in France informing him that said servant is impressed by the Citizens now in power in France. He is charged with capital offenses that could lead to the guillotine. Darney feels duty bound to return to France to defend his former servant despite the risk of retuning since former aristocrats are no longer welcome in France. But Darney, after marrying Lucie, returns to Paris but is arrested after being betrayed. The Manette’s followed Darnay once they learn that he has been arrested.

Things get complicated as the Defarge’s now have power to convict or release Darney. I’ll not say more so as not spoil the plot twists that Walsh’s adaptation so nicely presents. The violent social upheaval is vividly presented. The lawyer Carton, suffering from depression and the loss of Lucie’s hand, decides to make his life mean something by going to Paris to help Darnay. His self-sacrifice is the embodiment of redemption and sacrifice. He emerges as the true noble person. His unrequited love for Lucie requires his actions.

Despite a slow pace early on, A Tale of Two Cities eventually grabs us and keeps us engaged until the strong second act becomes a powerful one. using the thick accents, some actors speak too fast thus rendering their speeches hard to understand. Once the players slow down a tad, this production will improve . There is enough craft from the game cast of tn to make Lifeline Theatre’s production of the Dicken’s classic worth seeing. Josh Hainsworth and Nicholas Bailey were particularly effective with John Henry Roberts’ lively narration the glue that holds the show together.

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