Miss Buncle’s Book

September 11 – November 1, 2015
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm
(No performances October 31st)

“With only three months left in 2015, I am pretty sure that I can safely dub ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’ at Lifeline Theatre one of my favorite plays of the year.”  –Newcity

“Precisely the kind of engaging entertainment constituting this company’s hallmark for more than three decades.”  –Windy City Times

Barbara Buncle is just an ordinary, unassuming spinster passing an unremarkable existence in the sleepy village of Silverstream. But when the Great Depression wipes out her nest egg, she tries her hand at writing and publishes a novel – under an assumed name – about her quaint hometown and the oddball characters that inhabit it. When the book becomes a surprise bestseller and her neighbors’ foibles are thrust into the national spotlight, Miss Buncle must navigate a madcap storm of accusations, rivalries, and romances. A rollicking look at life imitating art and art imitating life, in a world premiere adaptation of the 1934 novel by D.E. Stevenson.

Based on the novel by D.E. Stevenson 
Adapted by Christina Calvit 
Directed by Dorothy Milne

Special Performances
Open Captioning
Sunday, September 27 at 4:00pm

Audio Description and Touch Tour
Saturday, October 10
   Touch tour: 2:30pm
   Performance: 4:00pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

Highlights from Miss Buncle’s Book 

  • Peter Greenberg (Mr. Abbott, Mr. Durnet)

    Peter is familiar to Lifeline audiences for many roles including Rochester (Jane Eyre), Phileas Fogg (Around the World in 80 Days), Tristram Shield (The Talisman Ring), Lord Peter Wimsey, and many others. He is a member of the Lifeline artistic ensemble and has also directed and adapted here. Before coming to Chicago, Peter worked extensively in regional theater on everything from Shakespeare and Moliere to Sam Shepard and Neil Simon, and he co-founded the Actors Shakespeare Company in Albany, New York.

  • Katharine Hildreth (Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Walker)

    Kate has worked with many Chicago theaters including Victory Gardens, Interplay, Renaissance Repertory, and Argyle Gargoyle Productions. She was last seen in Lifeline’s production of Gaudy Night at Theatre on the Lake. Other Lifeline credits include Cat’s Cradle and Cotillion. Kate is thrilled to be back working with Lifeline Theatre once again.

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Mrs. Greensleeves, Miss King)

    Elise is thrilled to be returning to the Lifeline stage where she was last seen in Neverwhere. A member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2005, she has appeared in numerous Lifeline productions including Queen Lucia, Strong Poison, and The Silver Chair, and directed such productions as One Came Home, Pride and Prejudice, and Mariette in Ecstasy (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination: Direction). Around town as an actor she has worked with Goodman Theatre, Oak Park Festival, City Lit, Circle Theatre, First Folio Shakespeare, Apple Tree, and Griffin Theatre (On the Shore of the Wide World, Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Supporting Actress-Play), among others. Next up, Elise will direct Lifeline’s summer production of Northanger Abbey.

  • Kristina Loy (Sally, Margaret)

    Kristina is thrilled to be making her Chicago debut with Lifeline Theatre. She spent the past year as an Artistic Intern at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for their 2014-2015 Season. Her credits there include: after all the terrible things I do, Harvey, and Peter and the Starcatcher. In 2014, Kristina received her BFA in Acting from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Credits there include: 9 Parts of Desire, 44 plays for 44 Presidents, Kabuki Lady Macbeth, and Cabaret.

  • Martel Manning (Stephen Bulmer, Dr. Walker)

    Martel is thankful to be making his debut at Lifeline Theatre. His previous Chicago credits include Midsummer Night’s Dream with Two Pence Theatre, Circle-Machine with Oracle Productions, Social Creatures with Tympanic Theatre Co, and Much Ado About Nothing with Midsommer Flight. Regional theatre credits include Ragtime and A Christmas Carol at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Offstage, Martel also works as a vocal coach and a fight choreographer. He is a proud member of Midsommer Flight and holds an MFA from the University of Houston.

  • Katie McLean Hainsworth (Mrs. Featherstone Hogg, Marina)

    Katie has been a member of Lifeline’s ensemble since 2006. Her adaptation of The Mark of Zorro won the 2009 Non-Equity Jeff Award for New Adaptation, and she directed Watership Down and Johnny Tremain for the Mainstage. As an actor, her favorite Lifeline productions include Monstrous Regiment, A Tale of Two Cities, The Three Musketeers, Hunger, Neverwhere, Mariette in Ecstasy, Crossing California, Gaudy Night, Whose Body?, and Cooking With Lard. A native of Central New York, Katie has made Chicago her home, and appeared onstage with WildClaw, the Hypocrites, Bailiwick, and Greasy Joan, among others.

  • Tiffany Oglesby (Sarah Walker, Dorothea Bold, Angela Pretty)

    Tiffany is happy to return to Lifeline after making her debut in last season’s The One and Only Ivan and is thrilled to be on board with a wonderful cast and crew. Other recent Chicago credits include Bob: A Life in Five Acts (Livewire Chicago Theatre), and Run Chris Run (Stone Soup Theatre Project). Tiffany received her BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design and is a recent graduate from The Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA in Acting, 2014). Her TTS credits include: What Happened in Pinkville?Our TownTrustBlue Heart, and In the Red and Brown Water. Tiffany is happily represented by Grossman & Jack Talent Agency.

  • Sean Sinitski (Col. Weatherhead, Mr. Featherstone Hogg)

    Sean 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: Lifeline – A Tale of Two Cities, The Killer Angels, The Three Musketeers, The Moonstone, Neverwhere, Treasure Island, The Picture of Dorian Gray; Stage Left – All’s Well that Ends Well, Rabbit, Fellow Travelers; The House – Season on the Line; Chicago Shakespeare – Timon of Athens, The Madness of King George; Strawdog – The Merchant of Venice, Detective Story, The Cherry Orchard; Hypocrites – Endgame, Henry V, Balm in Gilead; Silk Road – Back of the Throat, Caravaggio.

  • Jenifer Tyler (Barbara Buncle)

    Jenifer is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University and has been a Lifeline ensemble member since 2001. She has appeared in numerous productions on the Lifeline stage, receiving a Non-Equity Jeff Award for Outstanding Actress in a Principle Role and an After Dark Award for her portrayal of Jane in Jane Eyre (2001), and a nomination for her performance as Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night. Jenifer also directed The Velveteen Rabbit (2006) 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.

  • Chris Vizurraga (Ernest Hathaway, Mr. Fortunum)

    Chris is very excited to make his Lifeline Theatre debut with Miss Buncle’s Book! Chicago credits: A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol (Chicago Shakespeare),The Drowsy Chaperone (Metropolis Performing Arts), and Tamer of Horses (Stone Soup Theatre Project). Regional credits: Ragtime, Noises Off, A Christmas Carol, End of the Rainbow, and The History of Invulnerability (Milwaukee Repertory Theater). He received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Shorter College, and completed an acting internship in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013-14 season.

  • Shelby Lynn Bias (Understudy)

    Shelby Lynn is a recent graduate from Columbia College Chicago, and she is beyond thrilled to be making her Lifeline Theatre debut! Some of her Chicago theatre credits include: Mona in Six Postcards (Columbia), Othello in Othello (Foundlings Theatre), Molvik (u/s) in The Wild Duck (Halcyon Theatre), and Maggie in Chicago (Columbia). She excited to be taking the first steps in what she hopes will be a long career in the Chicago Theatre Community.

  • Linsey Falls (Understudy)

    Linsey is thrilled to be returning for his third production with Lifeline Theatre, after understudying The One and Only Ivan and appearing in Lyle Finds His Mother. A proud company member of Barrel of Monkeys, his past work includes Chicago productions such as Hotel Aphrodite and Namosaur (Factory Theater); Slaughter CityDrumming in the Night, and Debris of the Prophet (Prop Thtr); A Summer’s Day and Blue Planet(Akvavit Theatre); The Sign of the Four and Frankenstein (City Lit); Ghosts of Treasure Island (Adventure Stage Chicago); and Henry V(Promethean Theatre)

  • Josh Mattingly (Understudy)

    This marks Josh’s first time working with Lifeline. He was most recently seen in Two Pence Theatre Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other Chicago credits include work with Bailiwick, Silk Road Rising, Nothing Without a Company, Rasaka Theatre, and Quest Theatre Ensemble, where he was a founding member.

  • Jhenai Mootz (Understudy)

    Jhenai is constantly thrilled to work and learn with the Lifeline folks, where she was seen last year in Jane Eyre, and will be appearing in their upcoming KidSeries production of Sparky! Other recent credits include: GenevaMajor BarbaraMan and SupermanSaint JoanPygmalionThe MillionairessMrs. Warren’s Profession, and Arms and the Man(ShawChicago); Cymbeline (Muse of Fire Theatre Company); HamletTwelfth NightRichard IIIDancing at LughnasaArms and the ManMuch Ado About NothingMurder By The Book, and Picnic (Oak Park Festival Theatre); The WomenThe Philadelphia Story (Circle Theatre); and The Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe (First Folio).

  • Maggie Speer (Understudy)

    Maggie is quite pleased to be working with Lifeline Theatre. Most recently she appeared as Lady Stutfield in Lady Windemere’s Fan (Dead Writer’s Collective). Her favorite roles include Margaret Mead, Hair (American Theatre Company); Mrs. Graves, Enchanted April (Idle Muse); Bernarda, The House of Bernarda Alba (Circle Theatre); Bessie Burgess, The Plough and the Stars (Irish Heritage Center); Mrs. Pascal, The House of Yes(Strawdog); and Lorraine, A Lie of the Mind (Azusa Productions). Maggie is a former member of Strawdog Theatre Company, a current member of Polarity Ensemble and is also a director, producer and teacher.

  • Christina Calvit (Adaptor)

    Christina is a Lifeline ensemble member. She has written over a dozen theatrical adaptations which have been performed both in the United States and internationally. Her work has received eleven Jeff Award nominations, four Non-Equity Jeff Awards and one Equity Jeff Award. With composer/lyricist George Howe, she also won an After Dark award for the musical Queen Lucia. Other favorite shows include Pride and PrejudiceMariette in EcstasyA Room with a ViewJane EyreAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal SnoggingPistols for Two; and The Talisman Ring. Original plays include Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday AdventurePurloined PoeChaos (co-writer), and Several Voices from The Cloud (Agnes Nixon Award, 1981). Christina is currently working on an audio version of her adaptation of Jane Eyre for LA Theatre Works, which will be directed by Marsha Mason.

  • Dorothy Milne (Director)

    Dorothy is an ensemble member and the Artistic Director of Lifeline Theatre. She has directed over twenty productions at Lifeline, receiving a Non-Equity Jeff Award (Direction) for Around the World in 80 Days in 2003, and she most recently directed The One and Only Ivan for Lifeline’s KidSeries. Dorothy is also involved in the Chicago storytelling scene: she has been writing and performing with the storytelling collective Sweat Girls for over 20 years; she directs occasionally for 2nd Story; and at Lifeline she leads the Lifeline Storytelling Project and co-curates the Fillet of Solo Festival.

  • Becky Bishop (Stage Manager)

    Becky is always pleased to explore the literary vistas with Lifeline. Her most recent excursion was the summer musical adventure Soon I Will Be Invincible. Other productions at Lifeline include Jane Eyre (2014), the Jeff-nominated Monstrous Regiment, and The City & The City. Previous works elsewhere in Chicago include The Dead PrinceThe Half Brothers Mendelssohn, and Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play, with Strange Tree. She’s also stage managed productions with Griffin Theatre (Robber BridegroomLetters HomeOn the Shore of the Wide WorldStage Door), Steep (Under the Blue Sky), Caffeine Theatre (Under Milk Wood), Dog & Pony (Ape), and The Gift (Suicide Inc.) She received her BA in Theatre and English from Winona State University. She has been a freelance stage manager in Chicago since 2006.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Alan has designed numerous Lifeline shows over the last 20+ years. Most recently, he designed scenery and properties for One Came Home and scenery, projections, and properties for Soon I Will Be Invincible. Come mid-October he will head down to Silver Dollar City in Branson to again bring Christmas to the Ozarks via his designs for Dickens’ Christmas Caroland It’s a Wonderful Life. Last spring, Alan received a Broadway Theatre World Chicago award for his 2014 scenic design (Resident Equity Theatre) for Avenue Q at the Mercury Theatre Chicago. And in years past, Alan adapted Donald E. Westlake’s Trust Me on This and Adam Langer’s Crossing California for the Lifeline MainStage and Daniel Pinkwater’s Bongo Larry & Two Bad Bears and Eileen Spinelli’s Sophie’s Masterpiece: A Spider’s Tale for the KidSeries. In Spring 2015, he’ll create the environs for Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters.

  • Kevin D. Gawley (Lighting Designer)

    A Lifeline ensemble member since 2001, Kevin won Non-Equity Jeff Awards for his designs of The Island of Dr. Moreau and Jane Eyre, and an After Dark Award for Strong Poison. He was also nominated for Non-Equity Jeff Awards for his designs of HungerTreasure IslandNeverwhere, and The Woman in White. His lighting and scenic designs have also appeared in numerous productions at Bailiwick, Organic, Porchlight, Blindfaith, Theatre on the Lake, Metropolis, Storefront, Loyola University, Revels Chicago, Midwest Jewish, Taylor University, and at the NC Shakespeare Festival theatres. Kevin is an Assistant Professor and Resident Scenic/Lighting Designer at the University of Louisville, and has taught previously at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Izumi Inaba (Costume Designer)

    Izumi is thrilled to return to Lifeline Theatre. Her previous credits at Lifeline include The City & The City and Lions In Ilyria. She is a freelance costume/makeup designer in Chicago and has worked on productions with Griffin, Steep, Gift, A Red Orchid, Steppenwolf for Young Adults, Chicago Dramatists, About Face, Raven, Buzz 22, Route 66, American Blues, Victory Gardens, Sideshow, Strawdog, Northlight, and many others. She is a company member at Red Tape, a resident designer at Albany Park Theatre Projectm and a recipient of two Non-Equity Jeff Awards and the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. She received her MFA in Stage Design from Northwestern University.

  • Anthony Ingram (Sound Designer)

    Tony is very happy to be back at Lifeline after having most recently designed sound for The Velveteen Rabbit (2014). As the resident Sound Designer at Signal Ensemble Theatre, Tony has worked on many productions including The Drowning GirlsEast of Berlin & The Russian PlayAces1776Aftermath, and The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe. He has also worked with other companies in the Chicagoland area including Factory Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, Bailiwick, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, and The Right Brain Project. Daily, Tony can be found working with tech at The Shedd Aquarium.

  • Annaliese McSweeney (Dramaturg)

    Annaliese is delighted to have the opportunity work with Lifeline Theatre for the first time. Other Chicago credits include The Bottle Tree (Leapfest and Residency programs with Stage Left Theatre); All’s Well That Ends Well (Stage Left); The White RoadShining City, and Lay Me Down Softly(Irish Theatre of Chicago); In the Garden and The Little Prince(Lookingglass); and Gus’s Fashion and Shoes (Route 66). She is currently the Associate Literary Manager at Stage Left Theatre and holds a BA degree from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame and an M.Phil from Trinity College, Dublin.

  • Cody Michael Schmidt (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Cody is excited to be joining Lifeline Theater for the first time. His previous Chicago credits include Assistant Stage Manager for Boy From Oz and The Book of Merman (Pride Films and Plays); Lighting Designer for I am the Rat (Acorn Button Productions); and Carpenter for Sucker Punch(Victory Gardens) and All Our Tragic (The Hypocrites). As a recent graduate of Elon University, additional credits include Frozen by Bryony Lavery (Director/Production Manager), Angels in America: Part One(Assistant Director), and Rocky Horror Show (Lighting Designer).

  • Kendra Thulin (Dialect Coach)

    Kendra most recently worked with Lifeline playing Alena in Hunger, and is delighted to be back. Kendra recently coached Brilliant Adventures at Steep Theatre, where she is a company member. In addition to coaching many shows there, she has dialect coached for Griffin Theatre, Remy Bumppo, Raven Theatre, and Pine Box Theatre. This fall she will be appearing at Steep in the world premiere of The Cheats. Kendra is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Voice and the Theatre Foundations program at Columbia College Chicago.

From Newcity

September 24, 2015
By Christopher Kidder-Mostrom


With only three months left in 2015, I am pretty sure that I can safely dub “Miss Buncle’s Book” at Lifeline Theatre one of my favorite plays of the year. I cannot be sure it will remain on top as there are about 100 days left before 2016, but it is a safe bet that it will remain in my personal top five.

The show has charm, wit and a protagonist that gains your support the moment you meet her. The small and mousy Barbara Buncle (Jenifer Tyler) has written a fictional exposé of her hometown of Silverstream, England. Her book becomes wildly popular, which is not particularly appreciated by the people of her village. It is a good thing she wrote her book under a pen name, for some of the villagers are out for blood. You see, the book points out how terrible the people of the town are, and at the same time suggests ways that they can become better. Some of them actually adopt the suggestions within Miss Buncle’s book, others fight progress tooth and nail.

Katie McLean Hainsworth takes a stellar turn as the town’s vicious busybody and former chorus girl, Mrs. Featherstone Hogg. While Miss Buncle is the hero of the story, much of the action is driven by the efforts of Hainsworth’s character. Two additional standouts are Sean Sinitski and Tiffany Oglesby as Col. Weatherhead and his beloved Dorothea Bold, respectively. Their briefly portrayed romance gives a sense of magic to the goings on, as they are the first people to be positively influenced by Miss Buncle’s controversial work. Oglesby also appears as one of the strongest characters in the play as Miss Buncle’s only local friend, Sarah Walker.

Director Dorothy Milne’s cast is consistently solid and each actor makes changes in character and costume appear seamless. As they struggle with what to do about having their lives put forth for all the world to see, the citizens of Silverstream show themselves to be highly entertaining, even in their darkest moments and especially in their brightest.

From Windy City Times

September 30, 2015
By Mary Shen Barnidge

Once upon a time—1932, to be specific—in a quiet village located “a short train ride” from London, middle-aged spinster Barbara Buncle finds her income sharply reduced by falling interest rates. To stave off penury, she proposes to write a novel, basing its characters on her neighbors ( with all names changed, of course, including her own ) whom she portrays as they are—or in some cases, as they COULD be. The book is an immediate success, but then the citizens of Silverstream begin to recognize themselves in the outrageous populace of “Copperfield”—enraging some, but leading others to question their own lifestyles. By the time a sequel is announced, its publisher’s interest in the pseudonymous “John Smith” has extended beyond its lucrative sales figures.

Real-life author Dorothy Emily Stevenson shares with her fictional scribbler a candor inviting her personae to “see themselves as others see them” ( as Robert Burns famously remarked ), but also to nudge those in need of “waking up.” This may require third-party assistance: the cohabiting Ellen King and Angela Pretty may not REALLY be trouser-wearing lesbians exploring the fleshpots of Afghanistan like their literary counterparts, but when the doctor—who, like everybody else in Silverstream, has read the titillating roman Ã? clef—prescribes a therapeutic holiday in a warm and dry climate, the ladies are soon enjoying camel-back adventures in Egypt.

These are not Downton Abbey nostalgia-porn neurasthenics, however, nor are they mean-spirited Wodehouse-style caricatures ( though the frivolous Vivian Greensleeves declaring that she would marry “the devil himself” as long as he had lots of money comes close ). Small economies engendered by post-WWI depression—margarine instead of butter, the prospect of raising chickens at home—play as great a part in the eventual outcomes as the ease of eloping to Paris should the impulse to do so strike, keeping the action always accessible to our Yankee sensibilities.

Long-time Lifeline Theatre subscribers require no more recommendation for this production than its inclusion of Christina Calvit, Peter Greenberg and Jenifer Tyler, though newcomers may have to be told that Calvit’s page-to-stage adaptations have made her a five-time Jeff award-winner and that the duo of Greenberg and Tyler have been kindling slow-burning sparks since 2001 in literary romances ranging from Jane Austen to Dorothy Sayers. Add in a tech team savvy in small-space environments and a supporting cast of ensemble regulars in multiple roles, and the results are precisely the kind of engaging entertainment constituting this company’s hallmark for more than three decades.

From the Chicago Reader

September 22, 2015
By Suzanne Scanlon

Lifeline’s latest is adapted from D.E. Stevenson’s novel, set in World War II England, about a woman who under a male pen name writes a tell-all novel about the people in her small town, exposing much hypocrisy and pathos. It’s fun to watch the various characters fume over their exposure (and fun to imagine a world where people become so excited by books). There’s a larger story here, about the transformative power of art and the wisdom of the outsider, but much of the entertainment owes to Dorothy Milne’s staging and to Jenifer Tyler as Miss Buncle, whose transformation from mousy spinster to bold author is the real triumph, no matter the happily-ever-after ending.

From Splash Magazines

September 27, 2015
By Amy Munice

Before curtain time we are immediately taken in by the lace clad house frame tops that are the set crown of “Miss Buncle’s Book” in the icebox Lifeline Theatre that thankfully always provides snuggly blankets on each seat. (Scenic & Properties Designer Alan Donahue). Then with scones, tea and a gaggle of British accents humming from the 10-person cast, we find ourselves quickly ensconced in a small village, somewhere near London.

This is a very small village where everyone knows each other well–perhaps too well. Miss Buncle (Jenifer Tyler), lives here and had secretly taken pen to paper to write about her fellow villagers as a way to make ends meet during difficult economic times. Writing under a pseudonym, she tells it like it is. So much so, in fact, that when copies of her book begin to circulate in her town, some take offense while others take it more as a playbook of how to change their life going forward.

For two hours or so we are amused by this able cast creating their lampooned characters acting out all hell breaking loose as a result of “Miss Buncle’s Book” being unleashed on the town. (Peter Greenberg, Katharine Hildreth, Elise Kauzlaric, Kristina Loy, Martel Manning, Katie McLean Hainsworth, Tiffany Oglesby, Sean Sinitski, Jenifer Tyler, Chris Vizurraga.)

It’s lite, it’s fun, and especially so because you sense the cast is enjoying themselves quite a bit as they lay on the caricatures.

We are in on the secret that the outraged townsfolk can’t guess. Nobody in town even remotely considers mousy Miss Buncle as the perpetrator. She meanwhile acts out her Walter Mitty type fantasies of getting even or at least her due.

Get her due she does, and her man and her life, and ultimately the most fashionable and brave hat of them all. (Costume Designer Izumi Inaba).

Most of us have, like Miss Buncle, had a moment or two or more when we were invisible and underestimated. Remembering the time/s when you, like Miss Buncle, weren’t taken seriously — just a pretty face, or too old, or too young, or the wrong race, or the outsider of the school “in” crowd, etc. — will help you connect to this lite story.

From Chicago Theater Beat

Romantic and quirky, ‘Miss Buncle’ is a bemusing crowd-pleaser
September 24, 2015
By Clint May

Fittingly, Lifeline Theatre’s latest literary adaptation begins with an over-the-top homage to traditional English tea. All English civilization, it exhorts, rests on the edge of a china cup. Like the tea and scones that figure so prominently, Miss Buncle’s Book is a bit of old school traditional escapist fare with extra cream and two—if not three—sugars.

Written in the depths of The Great Depression (when audiences clamored even more than usual to escape reality), D.E. Stevenson sets her spinster eponym in the dire straits of losing the ‘dividends’ that support her meek rural lifestyle. After looking at other avenues, she leans into her greatest strength—quietly observing the quirks and foibles of her neighbors. She changes her town of Silverstream to Copperfield and pens a bestseller of thinly veiled but accurately sketched characters that is satire to the city dwellers and tawdry gossip to her fellow pastoralites.

When Miss Buncle (Jenifer Tyler) finds her ‘Disturber of the Peace’ (written under the nom de plume ‘John Smith’) in the hands of her neighbors, she quickly discovers that her takedown of their hubris-laden exteriors is creating a scandal for some and serving as inspiration for others. Art imitates life as life imitates art and back again, and the journey begins to transform Miss Buncle herself as her affection for her agent Mr. Abbot (Peter Greenberg) takes on a thrilling life of its own.

Christina Calvit’s adaptation is faithful, sometimes to a fault. The run time is padded with an exposition-heavy first act, mimicking the source’s multi-character viewpoints. Gratefully, the second act dispenses with world-building and starts delightfully paying off on the conflicts and love interests established. There’s a balance of energy and honesty that Director Dorothy Milne hasn’t found in every character, and it’s the women who truly shine while most of their male counterparts seem wooden by comparison. Katie McLean Hainsworth is hilarious as a burlesque girl turned socialite who leads the whodunit brigade to pillory John Smith. Kate Hildreth is pitch-perfect with a nose—and a performance—turned up to the sky. Camping and vamping to beat the band, Elise Kauzlaric leaves almost nothing of Donahue’s spartan set for the others to chew as a golddigger with her sights set on a wealthy young vicar (Chris Vizurraga).

At times the entirety gets borderline overwrought, but whenever the focus snaps back to Buncle and Abbot the show finds its heart and all is well again. Tyler and Greenberg create a lovely chemistry and have the appropriate balance of whimsy and realism (a scene at a movie theatre is particularly well-constructed). Miss Buncle’s earnestness and inability to see herself as she truly is shines through with Lifeline regular Tyler, who has an ability to deliver lovably dry wit with a body language reminiscent of Tina Fey.

Featherlight farce has always been welcome at Lifeline, and Miss Buncle’s Book proudly continues that tradition. The British obsession with appearances has always been a beloved and relatively easy target of satire. Miss Buncle’s Book falls into the same sub-genre as “Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day” or “Mrs Henderson Presents” with a coziness that reaches out to envelop the audience.

Now if they could only satisfy the desire for some real English-style tea that anyone who has viewed the show is sure to have upon exiting.

From The Fourth Walsh

September 22, 2015
By Katy Walsh

Fortunately for us, the Lifeline library is limitless and open to the public. Every season, they select a few books to showcase. Although they have an extensive collection of Austen and Bronte, Lifeline can’t be labeled as doing one type of book best. They do it all; adventures, fantasies, westerns, mysteries, romance and even sci-fi. And they often do it with comedy and music. And usually, it’s curl-up-in-the-chair-page-turning entertainment perfection. This time, the literary roll-out is a witty satire on the residents of a sleep English village.

Playwright Christina Calvit skillfully adapts the 1934 novel by D.E. Stevenson. Calvit pens the charming tale of a spinster writer who anonymously writes a tell-all book about her neighbors. When the community realizes the bestseller is about them, the amusement escalates as they go on a witch hunt to find the author. It’s ‘Housewives of the UK’ where the residents hide lies and insults under polite chit-chat. Calvit and Director Dorothy Milne work together to heighten the absurdity of each resident while maintaining the dry British humor. Some moments are so subtle and smart, the audience’s laughter is a couple beats behind.

Under Milne’s tight orchestration, the entire ensemble continue to pick-a-little-talk-a-little like an animated hen party. In their spirited discussions to discover who the author ‘John Smith’ is?, they regularly dismiss the mousy Jenifer Tyler (Miss Buncle). Tyler does an amazing job of being the main character and also being invisible. She seems to physically shrink into the background in contrast to the big personalities in the room. Her transformation throughout the play from nobody to somebody delights like a depression-era Cinderella story.

The town is filled with plenty of character. Elise Kauzlaric (Mrs. Greensleeves), Katherine Hildreth (Mrs. Carter) and the others bring out the quirky nature of small town life. Listening to them badmouth each other while delicately sipping tea and eating scones is hysterical. In particular, Katie McLean Hainsworth (Mrs. Featherstone Hogg) dominates as the self-appointed city matriarch. McLean Hainsworth is a blowhard with a sophisticated British accent. This combo, along with McLean Hainsworth’s razor sharp timing, delivers the punchline with an extra bloody oomph.

I’m already fond of Lifeline’s zestful Brit-Lit adaptations. This playful romp is more of an English com-rom. I thoroughly enjoyed the light-hearted buffoonery. Lifeline’s versatility as a storyteller is physically illustrated by Scenic Designer Alan Donahue. This time, Donahue dangles lacy curtain remnants from long poles. It gives the stage a neighborhood feel while reinforcing the secret lives and lies behind the sheers. It’s a simplistic look yet visually engaging. Everything about MISS BUNCLE’S BOOK makes it another collector’s edition in Lifeline’s repertoire.

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