Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

EXTENDED through August 12, 2018!
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm

“★★★★ This is a wonderful adaptation and a wonderful production… That Lifeline succeeds on all counts is a tribute to Kauzlaric’s excellent script and director Ilesa Duncan… The entire ensemble is excellent.”  –

“A bracing, breathtaking good time… Audiences looking for the perfect escapist comic drama, filled with action and adventure, should look no further than the current [offering] at this jewel of Rogers Park.”  –Chicago Theatre Review

“Can’t-miss epic fantasy with deep meaning and dark humor, a fitting tribute to Gaiman and his boundless creativity.”  –Chicago Theater Beat

Richard Mayhew commits an act of kindness on the streets of London and finds himself trapped in a shadow world beneath the city. Lady Door returns home one day to find her family slain and her life upended. Drawn together by fate – and forces more powerful than they can guess – these two must brave countless trials, uncover the truth behind a dark conspiracy, and face the indomitable Great Beast before they can set things right again. Journey to London Below with a rogues’ gallery of liars, outcasts, and assassins, on a treacherous quest to awaken the hero within, in a new production of Lifeline’s hit adaptation of the 1996 novel by Neil Gaiman.

Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman 
Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric 
Directed by Ilesa Duncan

Special Performances
Audio Description and Touch Tour
Sunday, June 24
   Touch tour: 2:30pm
   Performance: 4pm

Open Captioning
Saturday, June 16 at 4pm
Sunday, June 24 at 4pm
Friday, July 13 at 7:30pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

Neil Gaiman’s novel suggests that every city has a city below and each city has a price to pay. As part of our production of Neverwhere, Lifeline is curating “Chicago Below” — an lobby exhibit of images of the Chicago that lives just underneath the glittering parts of the city: the alleys, subways, viaducts and darker places of our own city. Click here to see the submissions.

Highlights from Neverwhere. Music by Andrew Hansen. 

  • LaQuin Groves (Mr. Vandemar & ensemble)

    LaQuin is very excited to be working again with Lifeline Theatre, after appearing as John Savage in Her Majesty’s Will and Edwin in Miss Holmes. Chicago credits include the Vagrant in Incident on Run 1217 (The Factory Theater), the Carnival Barker in American Notes, and Follezou in Frankenstein in Love (Will Act For Food). Regional credits include Father in Children of Eden (Music Theater West), the Beast in Disney’s West Coast premiere of Beauty and the Beast (Theatrical Arts International), The Bullfrog in Honk! (San Gabriel Civic Light Opera), and Ken in Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Performance Riverside).

  • Chris Hainsworth (Islington & ensemble; July 19–August 12)

    A proud ensemble member since 2010, Chris has been seen on the Lifeline stage in Talking it OverTreasure IslandNeverwhereThe Count of Monte CristoThe City & The CityThe Three MusketeersThe Killer AngelsA Tale of Two Cities, and Miss Holmes. He directed Her Majesty’s Will last season and is responsible for the MainStage adaptations of HungerMonstrous Regiment, and Midnight Cowboy, and the KidSeries production of Fable-ous!.

  • Aneisa Hicks (Hunter & ensemble)

    Aneisa is so excited to be a part of the cast of Neverwhere and to continue her stay at Lifeline! She made her Lifeline debut in Anna Karenina. Other credits include The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil (Babes with Blades Theatre Company), The End Of TV (Manual Cinema), and In To America (Griffin Theatre). TV credits include The ExcorcistEmpire, and Chicago Justice. She is originally from Asbury Park, NJ but has embraced Chicago as her home. Aneisa is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.

  • Jose Nateras (Richard)

    Jose is a Chicago-based actor and writer and is so excited to make his Lifeline debut with such a special production. Recent credits include Two Mile Hollow (First Floor); A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I <3 Juliet(Illinois Shakespeare Festival); Picnic (American Theatre Company); Cymbeline (Strawdog); Reprise (Adventure Stage); The Van Gogh Cafe(Filament Theatre), The Grapes of Wrath (The Gift Theatre); and Since I Suppose (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). He’s toured with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and appeared on NBC’s Chicago Fire, as well as in spots for Onion Labs and Radar Studios. He is represented by Gray Talent Group. Love and gratitude to all his amazing family and friends.

  • Samantha Newcomb (Door)

    Samantha is excited to return to Lifeline Theatre! She was previously seen this season as Phoebe Marlow in Sylvester, for which she was nominated for a Broadway World Award for Best Actress in a play. Other recent credits include Traitor (A Red Orchid Theatre), Once a Belle…?(Tectonic Theater Project), and In the Wake (The Comrades). Samantha holds a B.F.A in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is represented by Actor’s Talent Group.

  • Michaela Petro (Jessica & ensemble)

    Last seen in Lifeline’s production of Monstrous Regiment, Michaela is delighted to be back at Lifeline. An ensemble member with Strawdog Theatre since ’08, some of her favorite Strawdog credits include: CymbelineOnce in a LifetimeThe Sweeter OptionBig Love, and Old Times. She also has performed with Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Wildclaw Theatre, Interrobang Theatre, Cole Theatre, Lakeside Shakespeare, and A Red Orchid Theatre. She is represented by Big Mouth Talent.

  • Michael Reyes (Islington & ensemble; May 25–July 15)

    Michael is happy to be back at Lifeline after appearing in Anna Kareninaand Miss Holmes. He is an ensemble member with Strawdog Theatre, most recently appearing with them as Gary in Night Season and Cornelius/Philario in Cymbeline. Other credits: Turv in Captain Steve’s Caring Kingdom and Neville in Born Ready (Factory); Nick in Mutt and the Duke in All’s Well (Stage Left); Sebastian in Animals Commit Suicide (First Floor); and more. He has played with other great companies, here and gone, including Theo Ubique, Chicago Opera Vanguard, Promethean Theatre Ensemble, Muse of Fire, About Face, Backstage, 20 Percent, Next, and Organic/Touchstone. Much gratitude to Ilesa for this opportunity, and many thanks to you for coming out to see us!

  • John Henry Roberts (Mr. Croup & ensemble)

    John Henry is thrilled to return to Lifeline, where his credits include Miss HolmesJane EyreA Tale of Two Cities, and Hunger. He’s a member of Strawdog Theatre Company, credits include: Pillars of the CommunityBarbecueThe Night SeasonOld Times, and Aristocrats (Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Actor in a Supporting Role). Other recent credits: Welcome to Jesus (American Theater Company), The Little Flower of East Orange(Eclipse Theatre — Jeff nomination, Actor in a Principal Role), Diamond Dogs and The Hammer Trinity (The House Theatre). Film/TV: WidowsChicago P.D.Chicago Med. He is represented by Paonessa Talent.

  • Matthew Singleton (Marquis de Carabas & ensemble)

    Matt is incredibly happy to be making his Lifeline debut. Some of Matt’s credits include Our Town (Redtwist Theatre), The 39 Steps (Buffalo Theatre Ensemble), and understudying in At The Table (Broken Nose Theatre), This Is Modern Art (Steppenwolf Theatre), and Butler(Northlight Theatre). Special thanks to everyone involved in Neverwhere!

  • Dave Skvarla (Old Bailey & ensemble)

    Dave has performed at Lifeline in The Sirens of TitanThe Picture of Dorian GrayBusman’s HoneymoonThe Moonstone, and Watership Down, and is delighted to be here again. Dave played Prospero in The Tempest(City Lit); Edward III in The Scullery Maid and Henry II in The Lion in Winter(Idle Muse); Bluto in New Adventures of Popeye (Factory Theater); Lenny in Of Mice and Men (OPFT); and appeared with Strawdog, New Millennium, Shaw Chicago, Mary-Arrchie, Promethean, Caffeine, Backstage, Signal, Open Eye, The Hypocrites, in the historical documentary No Man Shall Protect Us, and the web series Mad Scientists Consortium and Mike’s Ma’s Balls.

  • Ty Carter (Understudy)

    Ty couldn’t be happier to be part of Neverwhere as a huge fan of both Lifeline and Neil Gaiman. At Lifeline, he was recently part of Montauciel Takes Flight and will be in the upcoming Frankenstein. Elsewhere in Chicago: Fifty Shades of Shakespeare with (re)discover theatre, Gulliver’s Travels with Forks & Hope Ensemble, and Richard III with Fury theatre. He would like to express his sincere gratitude and appreciation for the continued support of his family and peers!

  • Paul Chakrin (Understudy)

    Paul is happy to be back with Lifeline Theatre. Previously, he has worked with City Lit Theatre (Forty-Two StoriesThe Bloodhound Law); Muse of Fire (Hamlet); and Northlight (The City of Conversation, Sen. Mallonee u/s).

  • Jennifer Cheung (Understudy)

    Jennifer is excited to be working with Lifeline for the first time. Other Chicago credits include At The Table (Broken Nose, Non-Equity Jeff Award: Ensemble); The Heavens are Hung in Black (Shattered Globe); In To America (Griffin); Chagrin Falls (Agency, Jeff Nomination); Dream Freaks Fall From Space (The Second City, performing understudy); Natural Affection (Eclipse); Hookman (Steep, performing understudy); In the Spaces (Erasing the Distance); The Van Gogh Cafe (Filament); El Stories 25: Tunnel Vision (Waltzing Mechanics); and Thoughts and Prayers and Other Magical Things (The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival). Jennifer is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf.

  • Andrés Enriquez (Understudy)

    Andrés returns to Lifeline’s MainStage after previously being seen in Sylvester (Sylvester Rayne), Northanger Abbey (John Thorpe), and Soon I Will Be Invincible (CoreFire understudy). He’s also been lucky enough to be in Lifeline’s KidSeries production of Sparky! (Sparky). Other Chicago credits include Into The Beautiful North (16th Street Theater), My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra (Theater at the Center), Cymbeline(Strawdog Theater), and In The Heights (Porchlight Music Theater). Regional credits include The 39 StepsThe Fantasticks (Shawnee Theatre, IN); and Scapin (Colonial Williamsburg). He is represented by Gray Talent Group.

  • Kim Fukawa (Understudy)

    Kim is thrilled to be working with Lifeline for the very first time. Chicago credits include Henry V (Babes With Blades Theatre Company); Chimerica(TimeLine Theatre); and United Flight 232 (House Theatre). Kim is an Artistic Associate and occasional fight designer with Babes With Blades Theatre Company.

  • Gary Henderson (Understudy)

    Gary is making his Lifeline debut and couldn’t be more stoked to work on Neverwhere. Chicago credits include Poe in Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe(Theatre Hikes), Clayton in Hound of the Baskervilles (Idle Muse Theatre), Seth in The Boys Upstairs (Pride Films and Plays), Montresor in The Madness of Edgar Allen Poe (First Folio), Octavius in Julius Caesar (Muse of Fire), and a Townsperson in Enemy of the People (Goodman Theatre). Regional credits include Oswald in King Lear and understudy for Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Great River Shakespeare). Enjoy the show!

  • Dakota Hughes (Understudy)

    Dakota is excited to be joining the Neverwhere team in her Lifeline debut! Chicago credits include: AristophanesathonAmerican Idiot (The Hypocrites); Enemy of the People (Goodman Theatre); Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre Company); Thrones! The Parody Musical (Apollo Theatre); Magic Treehouse: Showtime with Shakespeare (Emerald City Theatre); and [title of show] (Open Door Repertory Company). Dakota is a Los Angeles native and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago where she received a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre Performance.

  • Oly Oxinfry (Understudy)

    Oly was recently seen as Twinkle in Lifeline’s You Think It’s Easy Being The Tooth Fairy. Chicago acting credits include Strawdog, Muse of Fire, Cock and Bull, Red Theater, Facility, and Stone Soup Shakespeare. They are a teaching artist and adapter/performer with Barrel of Monkeys and will make their directing debut with Bluebird Arts next spring.

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Adaptor)

    Robert is a proud member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble. He has written more than a dozen theatrical adaptations, which have been performed in over 40 U.S. states, as well as in England, Ireland, Wales, Canada, and Australia. Previous Lifeline adaptations include The Island of Dr. Moreau(Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Production-Play and New Adaptation), The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Three Musketeers (originally commissioned for the 2010 Illinois Shakespeare Festival), Northanger Abbey (with George Howe; Non-Equity Jeff Award: New Musical), Her Majesty’s WillThe True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! (with Paul Gilvary & William Rush), Lions in Illyria, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins (with George Howe).

  • Ilesa Duncan (Director)

    Ilesa is thrilled to return to Lifeline, where she last directed The Blue Shadow by Nambi Kelley. She is Producing Artistic Director at Pegasus Theatre, where recent directing credits include The Green BookShakin’ The Mess Outta Misery (Jeff Recommended), Rutherford’s Travels (Jeff Nominated), For Her as a Piano, and Blacula: Young, Black & Undead. Other credits include Broken Fences (16th Street Theater), the Jeff Award-nominated The Nativity (Congo Square), and the Jeff Award-winning Jar the Floor (ETA Creative Arts). Ilesa has also worked with Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Victory Gardens, Rivendell, Stage Left, and Chicago Dramatists, as well as Contemporary American Theatre Company (Ohio), The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Arena Stage (Washington, DC) and Lincoln Center Theater (New York). Ilesa’s creative nonfiction short stories have been published (Columbia College Chicago), and she’s written several poems and screenplays. Ilesa is a member of the Lincoln Center Theatre Director’s Lab, a NEA/TCG Directing Fellow, and an Associate Artist at Chicago Dramatists.

  • Becky Bishop (Stage Manager)

    A long time Neil Gaiman fan, after seeing (and loving) the 2010 production, Becky is ecstatic to actually be working on Neverwhere. Some of her previous excursions with Lifeline include Miss HolmesMiss Buncle’s BookSoon I Will Be InvincibleJane EyreMonstrous Regiment, and The City & The City. Other productions in Chicago include Some Like it Red and Circle House (Plagiarists); Prowess (Jackalope); The Dead PrinceThe Half Brothers MendelssohnFuneral Wedding: The Alvin Play(Strange Tree); Robber BridegroomLetters Home, and Stage Door(Griffin Theatre). Additional productions have been with Steep, Caffeine Theatre, and The Gift. She is looking forward to this fall and working with Lifeline again on Frankenstein.

  • Aly Renee Amidei (Costume Designer)

    Aly is a proud ensemble member of Lifeline Theatre. Favorite Lifeline costume designs include Her Majesty’s WillNorthanger AbbeyFable-ous!Lester’s Dreadful SweatersThe Count of Monte Cristo, and Watership Down. She is also an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre Company. Her costume and makeup designs have been seen at Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Irish Theater of Chicago, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, Stage Left, Artistic Home, House Theater, Piven Workshop, and Vitalist Theater. She is the sssistant professor of costume design at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and her research focuses on designing for new works and re-envisioned classics.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Alan is an ensemble member at Lifeline and most recently designed the game board set for Sylvester. At Lifeline he’s currently engaged in adapting the scenic design for Giggle, Giggle, Quack for touring and will also undertake lighting for the tour version of The One and Only Ivan as well. Recent designs elsewhere include Ghosts of War/Letters Home(Griffin Theatre), The Next Big Thing (Factory Theater), special scenic window clings for the video screens for Company (Mercury Theatre), and a new sleek revised set for the revamped concert show My People My Music in the Dreamsong Theatre at Dollywood. Next summer he opens a new musical romp, The Quest, for Silver Dollar City in Branson.

  • Morgan Gire (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Morgan is thrilled to be back at Lifeline Theatre. Previously, she was the ASM on Her Majesty’s Will and Miss Holmes, and she stage managed the Heartland Stage for Fillet of Solo. She has had the great fortune of working with such wonderful companies as WildClaw Theatre, Factory Theatre, Strawdog’s Hugen Hall, Adventure Stage Chicago, and Nothing Special Productions.

  • Andrew Hansen (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    Andy returns to Lifeline where he previously composed and designed for Miss HolmesA Tale of Two CitiesHungerWuthering HeightsTreasure Island, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. He is an Artistic Associate at TimeLine Theatre where he most recently collaborated on In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play. Other Chicago credits include work with Writer’s Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and Goodman Theatre.

  • Becca Jeffords (Lighting Designer)

    Becca is thrilled to be returning once again to Lifeline to collaborate on Neverwhere. Previous Lifeline designs include Arnie the DonutSparky!, and Soon I Will Become Invincible. Some Chicago designs include: Nice GirlBetrayal (Raven Theatre); Marry Me a LittleA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Porchlight Music Theatre); A Snowy Day with Beatrix PotterMr. Chickee’s Funny Money(Chicago Children’s Theatre); The TemperamentalsThe Pride (About Face Theatre). Other credits include Cherry Lane Theatre (New York), NYC Fringe Festival (New York), and The Theatre Arts Guild (Atlanta). Becca received her B.F.A. in Production Design from Columbus State University and her Masters in Lighting Design from Northwestern University. More information about her work can be found at

  • Michelle Lopez-Rios (Dialect Coach)

    Michelle is delighted to collaborate on her first show with Lifeline. She recently moved to Chicago to join The Theatre School at DePaul University as an Associate Professor of Voice and Speech. Coaching credits include Augusta and Noble (The Theatre School at DePaul) and Measure for Measure (Goodman Theatre). Regional credits include Julius CaesarMojada (Oregon Shakespeare Fesitval); The Foreigner (Milwaukee Rep); Milwaukee Chamber Theatre; Renaissance Theaterworks (Milwaukee); First Stage (Milwaukee); and Houston Shakespeare Festival. Michelle is also an actor, director, activist and founding member of The Royal Mexican Players.

  • Kyle Mundil Dye (Assistant Stage Manager)

    As a former Lifeline Theatre intern, Kyle is thrilled to be back with his first Chicago family! Recent Chicago theatre credits include Cinderella(Special Gifts Theatre), Cornerstone (Nothing Without A Company), Annie (Special Gifts Theatre), Beauty and the Beast (Special Gifts Theatre), and Sylvester (Lifeline Theatre.) Kyle is the Artistic/Casting intern at TimeLine Theatre. He proudly holds his B.A. in Theatre from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

  • Mike Oleon (Puppet Designer)

    Mike is a puppeteer, puppet-designer, director, and founding Artistic Director of Rough House. Directorial and puppet-design credits include Rough House’s Ubu the King (National Puppetry Festival Selection); Cicada SummerSad Songs for Bad PeopleMurder Ballads (Open Eye Figure Theater’s Toy Theater After Dark Festival selection); and Ichthyodyssey (National Puppetry Festival selection). Regional collaborations include Blair Thomas & Co., Redmoon, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He produces Nasty, Brutish & Short: A Puppet Cabaret quarterly at Links Hall. This Fall, Mike is directing The Walls of Harrow House, an immersive, theatrical puppet haunted house at the Chopin.

  • R&D Choreography (Victor Bayona & Richard Gilbert, Violence Designers)

    R&D Choreography is Victor Bayona (he/him/his) and Rick Gilbert (he/him/his), who are right chuffed to return to the world of London Below! R&D was founded in 1997 for the purpose of improving the power and effectiveness of Chicago area theatre through the art of violence design – choreographing better fights for better shows! They have designed violence and/or intimacy for over three hundred productions and films. Their work has been seen at dozens of Chicago-area theatres, including 16th Street, Akvavit, ATC, Chimera, Factory, Oak Park Festival, The Paramount, Pegasus, Piven, Steep, Strawdog, and Theo Ubique.

  • Maren Robinson (Dramaturg)

    A proud Lifeline ensemble member, Maren first worked with Lifeline in 2010 as dramaturg for Neverwhere and she is honored to revisit it in 2018, a moment that feels even more dangerous. Lifeline credits include The MoonstoneHungerPride and PrejudiceThe Woman in WhiteNorthanger Abbey, and Miss Holmes. She is also a company member at TimeLine Theatre, where she has been dramaturg for over twenty plays. Additional Chicago credits include Court, Strawdog, Eclipse, Caffeine, Greasy Joan, and Camenae theaters. Maren is an instructor at The Theatre School at DePaul, Associate Director of the Master of Arts Program in Humanities at the University of Chicago, and the Chicago VP of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.

  • Michelle Underwood (Projections Designer)

    Michelle has designed video and projections for Johnny Ten Beers’ Daughter (Something Marvelous); Geography of a Horse Dreamer (Mary-Arrchie); Kill Shakespeare: A Live Graphic NovelThe Hunting of the SnarkThe Long Christmas Ride Home (Strawdog); RapunzelHansel and GretelThree Little Pigs, and Charlotte’s Web (Emerald City). She was a founding member of Mortar Theatre Company, where she designed projections for the world premieres of I Am MontanaCorazón de Manzana; and Bombs, Babes and Bingo. After long nights at the theatre, Michelle works as a Creative Director by day.


“Neverwhere” Is a Place You Should Visit 
June 11, 2018 
By Karen Topham


For its final production of this season, Lifeline Theatre is remounting its acclaimed 2010 hit, an original adaptation (by Robert Kauzlaric) of Neil Gaiman’s urban fantasy Neverwhere. Sadly, I never saw the original production; however, I will say that if it was as good as the current one, it definitely deserved the multiple Jeffs that it won. This is a wonderful adaptation and a wonderful production.

Adapting a work of speculative fiction is a difficult choice for any theatre, and Neverwhere is particularly difficult due to its many eclectic locations, its monsters, and the not-necessarily-very-visual power of one of its central characters: opening doors. That Lifeline succeeds on all counts is a tribute to Kauzlaric’s excellent script and director Ilesa Duncan, who takes the audience on a twisted, difficult journey under the streets of London for two and a half hours.

Neverwhere takes place, mostly, in “London Below,” a place underground where citizens who have “fallen through the cracks” in society live by a remarkably different set of rules from everyone in “London Above.” It is the home of magical people, an angel, a monstrous boar-creature, mysterious keys, people who talk with rats, and vampiric denizens who suck the life out of their victims. It is the home of a “floating market” that mysteriously appears and disappears in new locations every time. It is the home of two ancient, nearly unbeatable assassins. And, mostly, it is the home of all of the people whom the regular citizens of London just don’t wish to see anymore.

Alan Donohue’s set consists of pipes and boards and a movable staircase, along with walls that have within them enough hidden doors for any magical door-opener to employ herself. And that is what Door (Samantha Newcomb) must do both to stay alive and to complete her personal quest. Door is in danger from the first moments of the play, as the assassins (LaQuin Groves and John Henry Roberts), who have murdered the rest of her family, are coming for her as well. She manages to escape from them temporarily with the help of a kind London Above-dweller who actually sees her as she lies helpless on the street and decides to intercede. Richard Mayhew (Jose Nateras) is thus thrust into the middle of Door’s quest to learn why her family has been executed. Richard, the obligatory newcomer to whom everything needs to be explained, plays a role similar to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: he is far from home with no apparent way of getting back in a place he does not understand, but he grows beyond himself as he continually helps the people he finds there.

The talented nine-member cast play 25 different characters in this fast-moving, complex production. Most notable among the rest are Matthew Singleton as the mysterious Marquis de Carabas; Aneisa Hicks as Hunter, a nearly superhuman Beast-killer that Door hires as a bodyguard; Dave Skvarla as Old Bailey, a merchant who plays a couple of important parts in the story; Michael Reyes as the Angel Islington, who once failed to protect Atlantis from flooding; and Michaela Petro as Lamia, the white-haired guide with a secret agenda. The entire ensemble is excellent; Duncan could not have asked for a better cast.

Also notable are the lighting design by Becca Jeffords, the sound design by Andrew Hansen, and the puppets designed by Mike Oleon, including very realistic rats and pigeons as well as that gigantic boar. The lighting, which is not only for time passage and effect but also is a critical part of the set design, is impeccable, and Hansen’s sound includes what seems like the nearly constant muttering of the dispossessed, as well as some terrific music. It all comes together brilliantly.

But the show rises or falls on the back of Nateras. Richard is a kind of everyman, the hard worker that no one really knows or understands whose richer inner life is symbolized by the troll dolls on his desk. He does not deserve to have his entire life whisked from beneath him, but his kindness in helping a stranger (Door) hastens its collapse. (Twice we are told that a good heart is unlikely to get anyone through the turmoil of life.) When he first arrives in London Below, Richard is shaken by everything he encounters. But he has the stuff of greatness within him, and Nateras’s performance allows us both to see his character change and to make this accidental voyager into the tale’s hero. If we don’t care about Richard, the whole play collapses, but Nateras makes sure that doesn’t happen.

As Door, Newcomb has a different job. Door’s ability makes her both powerful and hunted. It also could render the character a bit static; after her frantic opening, Door essentially leads Richard on a harrowing journey around the Below. But in Newcomb’s capable hands, Door manages to become as sympathetic as Richard, and she has several really effective moments as the action plays out. One very early example is her decision to take him with her in the first place. Newcomb is very expressive as the gears in her head turn and she realizes that his plight is all her fault. Between the two of them, Nateras and Newcomb make a great protagonist duo.

Yet another play that seems almost to have been written for our distorted times, Neverwhere tackles the key question of how society deals with its outcasts, and the answer (as it surely is in our current political state) is not very wellNeverwhere says that we completely ignore them and they vanish into the cracks. Of course, reality is more malevolent, as many among us play the role of the assassins here, seeking out the “different” people in order to destroy them. As allegory, Gaiman’s tale works even better than it did when he wrote it. As theatre, Kauzlaric’s adaptation keeps the audience riveted, doing Gaiman proud. Due to something having to do with rights, this will be the last production ever of this script; do yourself a favor and don’t miss it.

From Chicago Theatre Review

Falling Between the Cracks 
June 5, 2018 
By Colin Douglas


One night Richard Mayhew, a young Scottish office worker, discovers Door, an injured young woman lying alone on the street, covered in blood. Much to the chagrin of his snooty fiancee, Richard abandons Jessica to carry the wounded girl to his nearby apartment. Suddenly his mundane, work-a-day life turns into an incredibly implausible adventure, played out far below the streets of London. Thus, with an innocent act of kindness, Richard sets into motion one of the most exciting, unexpected adventures he could’ve ever imagined.

Based upon the popular adult urban fantasy by British author Neil Gaiman (American GodsThe SandmanCoraline), this, his first solo work, originally appeared as a novelization of his own 1996 BBC teleplay. Gaiman twice revised the novel and it’s always remained a bestseller among readers of sci-fi and fantasy. The story is set in “London Below,” a magical, parallel universe that exists within the sewers and tunnels of the city. Richard Mayhew accompanies Door, his mysterious new friend, helping her survive against a world of fanciful, freakish monsters and hired assassins.

Eight years ago Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric adapted Gaiman’s book into a Jeff Award-winning play. His work, which was both a critical and commercial success, continues to be produced internationally and throughout the United States. This new Chicago production, directed by Pegasus Theatre Artistic Director, Ilesa Duncan, brings Gaiman’s fantasy back to Chicago in a breathtaking, new production. Fans of Gaiman’s novel will not be disappointed and those who’ve never read the book will become new aficionados. Focusing her presentation of what it means to fall between the cracks, Duncan asks audiences to look at non-conformably perceived individuals, whether differently-abled, identified, gendered or hued, and to judge them on their own merits. This theme of acceptance particularly resonates in our contemporary world, especially in 21st century America, and is a big part of this play.

Ms. Duncan’s ensemble cast is the definition of versatility. With only a few exceptions, every actor portrays a slew of different characters. Jose Nateras makes a very likable hero as Richard Mayhew. The actor’s mastery of his Scottish accent is strong and consistent, without overpowering his lines. Nateras demonstrates a cunning talent for both verbal and physical humor, while managing, like most of his cast mates, to handle the wild stage violence that appears throughout this play (designed by R&D Choreography). Powerful actress Samantha Newcomb plays Door with dignity and physical dexterity. She manages to make the orphaned young woman sympathetic and likable while still portraying a kickass kid who won’t take any guff from anyone.

Leading her ensemble, Duncan has cast two incredibly gifted actors as the villainous, yet hilarious, Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup. The giant, brutish talent of LaQuin Groves balances beautifully with the quietly evil, intellectual manipulations of John Henry Roberts. Both actors easily morph into the company, but stand out as these two repugnant rapscallions. Matthew Singleton makes a very dignified, enigmatic Marquis de Carabas, while also playing a variety of other smaller roles. Dave Skvarla is delightfully funny as Old Bailey, the Master of Earl’s Court, and others. Aneisa Hicks is a frightening, commanding Hunter, as well as playing one of Richard’s silly coworkers. Michael Reyes gets to demonstrate what a chameleon of an actor he is as Islington, the Angel, as well as Richard’s nerdy office buddy, and several other characters. And Michaela Petro is very good as Jessica, while also creating an evil, sensuous vampire called Lamia.

In addition to Ilesa Duncan’s fine direction and energetic staging, this production features a pliably adaptable scenic design by Alan Donahue, enhanced by Michelle Underwood’s startling mobile projections, all lit with mystical majesty by Becca Jeffords. Andrew Hansen’s sound design and original music add yet another layer of polish to this production and Aly Renee Amidei’s costumes easily enable the cast to master the demands of each character.

This is a wonderful production, especially for fans of Neil Gaiman’s sublime, unique version of Alice’s Adventures Underground. Audiences looking for the perfect escapist comic drama, filled with action and adventure, should look no further than the current drama playing at this jewel of Rogers Park. Ilesa Duncan’s terrific production is a bracing, breathtaking good time that’s the theatrical equivalent of a great summer beach read. Just be careful of falling between the cracks.

From Chicago Theater Beat

Dark and fierce ‘Neverwhere’ a can’t-miss epic fantasy 
June 18, 2018 
By Lauren Whalen


Neil Gaiman is a phenomenon for a reason: his stories contain a flawless blend of the fantastical and the deeply human. Neverwhere is no different, with its sky-high stakes, compelling characters of all shapes and sizes, and intriguing philosophy. According to the program notes, Robert Kauzlaric first adapted Gaiman’s novel for the Lifeline stage in 2010, and that production toured the States, Canada, Ireland and the UK. Last year, Kauzlaric learned that Neverwhere’s rights had been sold in such a way that he’ll no longer be able to produce the script, and thus, its final production (with a new team of collaborators) closes Lifeline’s 2017-18 season. A rich urban fantasy with a phenomenal cast, Neverwhere challenges us to think beyond the day-to-day and embrace the unknown.

Neverwhere opens with Door (Samantha Newcomb), a young woman with magical powers, running from two assassins, the witty but deadly Mr. Croup (John Henry Roberts) and Mr. Vandemar (LaQuin Groves). Aboveground in London, Richard Mayhew (Jose Nateras) struggles with the endless paperwork of his day job and the incessant demands of his fiancée Jessica (Michaela Petro). Door wants to know why her family has been murdered, and Richard wants…well, he doesn’t know what he wants, and that’s a huge problem. When Door and Richard’s paths cross, things get interesting. And when they meet Hunter (Aneisa Hicks), a stoic and fierce bodyguard with an agenda of her own, the real adventure begins.

Lifeline Theatre is known for its stellar literary adaptations (the book that the production is based on is always on sale in the lobby), and this season has been especially stunning. From the silly and fun Sylvester to the gorgeous and tragic Anna Karenina to this Neverwhere, there’s been something for anyone and everyone. Neverwhere deftly plumbs the depths of the human imagination to ask the tough questions: who are we? What do we want? What price do we pay for our everyday lives? By dividing a major metropolis into the aboveground and the underground, Gaiman (and adaptor Kauzlaric) are able to fully realize the potential for simple kindness and depraved evil, and it’s beautiful to watch. Ilesa Duncan’s direction is intelligent and respectful, giving each character room to grow (and in some cases, to fully reveal just how far they’ll go to win).

While I wish Alan Donahue’s set design had gone a little more creative than Lifeline’s standard two levels, the rest of Neverwhere’s production values are spot-on. Michelle Underwood’s projections go a long way in establishing the seedy yet magical London underground, and Aly Renee Amidel’s costumes are vivid and whimsical. As always, Lifeline boasts an ensemble of gifted and diverse actors. Standouts include Roberts and Groves’ natty and nefarious hit men, Matthew Singleton as the charismatic and duplicitous Marquis de Carabas, and the power trio of Newcomb, Nateras and Hicks, who deftly fight, explore and love without ever holding back. Neverwhere is a can’t-miss epic fantasy with deep meaning and dark humor, a fitting tribute to Gaiman and his boundless creativity.

From Newcity

London Below: A Review of Neverwhere at Lifeline Theatre 
June 13, 2018 
By Emma Couling

There’s are few things so radical and joyful in 2018 as a wild adventure story whose heroes are all women and men of color. “Neverwhere” at Lifeline Theatre is a beautiful example of one such experience. Directed by Pegasus Theatre executive artistic director Ilesa Duncan, “Neverwhere” is a trippy romp into the London underground of Gaiman’s imagination.

After performing a random and fateful act of kindness, Richard Mayhew (Jose Nateras) finds himself embroiled in the mystical underground world of his new friend Lady Door (Samantha Newcomb) who can make entrances where none previously existed. Accompanied by an ambitious Marquis de Carabas (Matthew Singleton) and an unmitigated badass of a bodyguard named Hunter (a stunning performance by Aneisa Hicks), Door and Richard fight a pair of immortal assassins (brilliantly performed by John Henry Roberts and the consistently hilarious LaQuin Groves) to find the person responsible for the deaths of Door’s family.

As lovely as the production is generally, the scenic design by Alan Donahue is the real star of the show. A labyrinthine series of scaffolding, pipes, boards, ladders and (of all the brilliant things) a fireman’s pole work in concert with a stunning projections design [from Michelle Underwood]. Every level, step, and pole is utilized by directors and performers so you never know quite where to look next.

“Neverwhere” is not the most revolutionary piece of theater in the world though perhaps watching it will help you remember to be kinder and more thoughtful to people are less fortunate than you. But it is powerful in its representation and joyful in its fantasy.

From Picture This Post

Reviving The 2010 Adventure into Underground London 
June 5, 2018 
By Lauren Katz


What do you do when you are presented with a door to an adventure? Do you remain with the familiar, or do you take the jump? How do you begin to navigate a life that will never again feel the same?

Lifeline Theatre Revives 2010 Production of Neverwhere

Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel by Lifeline Ensemble Member Robert Kauzlaric and directed by Ilesa Duncan, Neverwhere follows Richard Mayhew (portrayed by Jose Nateras, who adds an appropriately awkward charm to the character), an average Londoner with a dead-end job and a fiancé, Jessica (Michaela Petro), who takes advantage of his push-over nature. Richard is ready to accept his fate until Lady Door (Samantha Newcomb, offering a strong counterpart to Nasteras’ Richard) literally falls into his path. He makes the choice to act out of kindness and help her – a choice that changes his life forever. Suddenly he not only discovers that there is a whole shadow world beneath the London he knows, but also that the choice to help Door has ripped him from the life he knows and trapped him down below.

Accompanied by Hunter (played with a fantastic dead pan humor by Anesia Hicks) and the Marquis de Carabas (portrayed with spot-on comedic timing by Matthew Singleton), Richard decides to follow Lady Door on an adventure that he only hopes can return him back to his normal life rather than end it completely. The question is, if he ever makes it back, will he want to return to the average? Or will that taste of adventure make a new man out of him? Richard and Door are brought together by fate and come to realize that they will need each other to find the answers that they seek and overcome the obstacles that face them below, including the partner assassins Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar (John Henry Roberts and LaQuin Groves – who offer hilarious performances and a fantastic stage chemistry).

The Adaptation

Kauzlaric’s adaptation accurately captures the essence of Gaiman’s novel with an added level of dark humor, and Duncan cleverly brings the piece to life in collaboration with her artistic team. Scenic and Properties Designer Alan Donahue (Lifeline Ensemble Member) creates an abstract structure that successfully transports the audience both to the upper and lower levels of London. The space is filled with staircases and scaffolding that the actors can use to reach great heights or the depths of the space, which allows Duncan to help emphasize all of the mysterious levels of the city.

Projections Designer Michelle Underwood fills in the gaps that the set cannot reach, particularly in highlighting the vastness of London’s dark underground, as well as Richard’s dream sequences. After Richard meets Door, he starts to dream about the shadow world that is starting to grab him, and Underwood projects the images flashing through Richard’s mind, adding an exciting layer to the scene.

Finally, Lighting Designer Becca Jeffords completes the picture through adding a frightening air to the room, and allowing the audience to feel the darkness that the characters describe through a mix of greens and purples that add shadows to the room.

Creative Storytelling

In addition to the large structure, Donahue includes multiple doors throughout the set. Lady Door has the magical ability to open doorways, and that plot point plays an important role in her adventure with Richard. Donahue’s doorways help emphasize that element, but also creates a fun extra layer to Duncan’s staging.

One example occurs right at the beginning of the play when we are introduced to Richard’s work life. He sits at a desk that pulls out from the wall, and his coworkers walk through a revolving door adding piles and piles of work to his plate. Eventually his fiancé is added to the mix, and she walks out to order him further. The revolving door adds humor, but also helps play into the larger theme of individuals controlling Richard’s life in a manner in which he can barely control until Door enters the play and drastically alters the pattern. The use of doorways at the beginning sets the audience up for a motif that occurs throughout, adding further mystery to the play with the knowledge that any character could enter at any point.

Full of adventure and humor, Neverwhere certainly makes for a fun-filled evening.