Sylvester

Sep 8 – Oct 29, 2017

Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm

“For lovers of Austen, inventive staging, and that warm feeling of camaraderie unique to the stage; Sylvester is a lovely evening reminding us that we can never win if we never play.”  –Chicago Theatre Review

3 STARS. An affectionate spoof of a romantic genre that, while periodically updated, hasn’t really changed the rules of the game in over 200 years”  –Chicago Tribune

“Lifeline’s adaptation of Sylvester, one of [Georgette Heyer’s] most popular novels, is typical of both [Jane] Austen and Heyer and a must-see for any fan of either.”  –Splash Magazines

Sylvester, Duke of Salford, was born with wealth and good looks, but a life of privilege has rendered him unfeeling towards others. Phoebe Marlow was graced with a sparkling wit and independent spirit, but languishes under the thumb of her domineering stepmother. When this mismatched couple is thrust together by their meddling families, both rebel and their tidy little worlds spin into chaos. Midnight flights, desperate sea voyages, and scathing society hijinks ensue as these unlikely lovers labor to avoid their fate. Grab the reins and charge headlong into a topsy-turvy tale of madcap romance in this world premiere comedy based on the 1957 novel by Georgette Heyer.

A world premiere based on the novel by Georgette Heyer
Adapted by Christina Calvit
Directed by Dorothy Milne

Based on the novel Sylvester: or the Wicked Uncle. Copyright © Georgette Heyer 1957. This performance licensed by arrangement with Heron Enterprises Ltd.

Special Performances
Audio Description and Touch Tour
Saturday, October 14
Touch tour: 2:30pm
Performance: 4pm

Open Captioning
Saturday, September 30 at 4pm
Friday, October 27 at 7:30pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

Highlights from Sylvester. Music by Curtis Edwin Powell.

  • Terry Bell (Thomas Orde & Ensemble)

    Terry is thrilled to be in his first show at Lifeline! Other theatre credits include: Arviragus in Cymbeline (Strawdog Theatre), Peter in Snowy Day and Other Stories (Emerald City Theatre), and Byron in The My Way Residential (Irish Theatre of Chicago). He is represented by Gray Talent Group.

  • Andrés Enriquez (Sylvester Rayne, Duke of Salford)

    Andrés is honored to be returning to Lifeline’s MainStage! Previously, he has been seen in 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 Steps, The Fantasticks(Shawnee Theatre, IN); and Scapin (Colonial Williamsburg). He is represented by Gray Talent Group.

  • Kate Hildreth (Lady Ingham, Mrs. Orde & Ensemble)

    Kate was last seen as Mrs. Carter in Lifeline’s production of Miss Buncle’s Book. Other Lifeline credits include Gaudy Night, Cat’s Cradle, and Cotillion. She has worked for many Chicago theaters and is thrilled to be back working with Lifeline once again.

  • Kristina Loy (Lady Ianthe Rayne, Alice & Ensemble)

    Kristina is so grateful to be back at Lifeline Theatre, where she was last seen in Miss Buncle’s Book. Chicago credits include The Hard Problem (Court Theatre); Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley(Northlight Theatre); The Van Gogh Café, Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Portage Park (Filament Theatre). She was an Emerging Professional Resident at the Milwaukee Rep for their 2014-2015 Season. Her credits there include after all the terrible things I do, Harvey, and Peter and the Starcatcher. Kristina proudly holds her BFA in Acting from the University of Illinois. For Skyler.

  • Katie McLean Hainsworth (Lady Marlow, Georgiana Newbury, The Dowager Duchess of Salford & Ensemble)

    Katie has been a Lifeline ensemble member since 2006. Her adaptation of The Mark of Zorro won the 2009 New Adaptation Non-Equity Jeff Award, and she directed Watership Down (2011) and Johnny Tremain (2006) for the MainStage. As an actor, her favorite Lifeline productions include Miss Holmes, Monstrous Regiment, A Tale of Two Cities, The Three Musketeers, Hunger, Neverwhere, Mariette in Ecstasy, Gaudy Night, Whose Body?, and Cooking With Lard. A native of Central New York, Katie has made Chicago her home, and also appeared onstage with WildClaw, the Hypocrites, Bailiwick, and Greasy Joan.

  • Samantha Newcomb (Phoebe Marlow)

    Samantha is thrilled to be making her Lifeline Theatre debut. Fresh on the scene, the Portland, Oregon native just received her BFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University this June. Chicago credits include Tessa in In The Wake (The Comrades). Notable Theatre School credits include Zonia Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone; Hester, La Negrita in In The Blood; and Queen Margaret in Richard III; as well as the TYA production of Cinderella: The Remix. Other credits include Bite, which she performed as a member of the Williamstown Theatre Festival Apprentice Company. Samantha is represented by Actor’s Talent Group.

  • Wesley Scott (Mr. Otley, Keighley, Sir Nugent Fotherby & Ensemble)

    Wesley is happy to be making his first appearance at Lifeline Theatre. His previous Chicago credits include The Hammer Trinity (The House); King Lear and Timon of Athens (CST); Jeeves Intervenes (First Folio); Bloody Bess and Waiting for Lefty (Backstage); and Cyrano De Bergerac (Oak Park Festival Theatre). His regional credits include Pericles and Fair Maid of the West (Riverside Theatre); Twelfth Night, Love’s Labors Lost, Comedy of Errors, Tartuffe, Richard III, The Winter’s Tale, She Stoops to Conquer, and Romeo and Juliet (Michigan Shakespeare Festival); See Rock City (Orlando Repertory Theatre); Rumpelstiltskin and Goodbye Mr. Henshaw(California Theatre Center). Wesley was educated at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, CA.

  • Sean Sinitski (Mr. Newsome, Lord Marlow, Mr. Shap, Pett & Ensemble)

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

  • Paul Chakrin (Understudy)

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

  • Kristi Forsch (Understudy)

    Kristi is happy to be working with Lifeline Theatre for the first time. Other Chicago companies she has worked with include Akvavit Theatre, Adapt Theatre (Company Member), 20% Theatre (Artistic Associate), Victory Gardens, (re)discover, and Waltzing Mechanics. Regional credits: Lyric Theatre, Oklahoma City Rep, Oklahoma Children’s Theatre, and Texas Shakespeare. She received her BFA in Acting from Oklahoma City University. She is represented by NV Talent.

  • Rebecca Keeshin (Understudy)

    Becky is thrilled to be joining Lifeline for the first time! As a recent graduate from The Theatre School at DePaul, school credits include Peter Pan and Wendy, The Lady from the Sea, Prospero’s Storm, and Mrs. Phu’s Cleansing Juices (And Also Salads)!. Professional credits include work with First Folio Theatre, Writers Theatre, The Music Theatre Company, and Canterbury Summer Theatre. She is currently performing in Mother Goose’s Garden at Emerald City Theatre. She is represented by Grossman and Jack.

  • Priya Mohanty (Understudy)

    Priya is very pleased to be making her Lifeline Theatre debut. Other Chicago credits include Sanam Shah in Queen (Victory Gardens Theatre); Gender Breakdown (Collaboraction); Lalitha in Widow of No Importance (Rasaka Theatre); Rukhsana in Multitudes (Rasaka Theatre & Vitalist Theatre); Nemasani in Anon(ymous) (Cuckoo’s Theatre Project). Priya just completed the School at Steppenwolf this summer and is also a proud alumnus of the ACADEMY at Black Box Acting. She is represented by Lily’s Talent Agency.

  • Benjamin Ponce (Understudy)

    Benjamin is excited to join this cast and crew for his first time at Lifeline. Other Chicago credits include How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients (Trap Door); The Night Season(Strawdog); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet (Muse of Fire); A Puppet Playdate with Grandma D (Pride Films and Plays); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet(Stone Soup Shakespeare); and he can be seen in Red Theater Chicago’s upcoming adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. He holds a BFA from the School of Theatre and Music at UIC.

  • Akua Sarhene (Understudy)

    Akua is excited to be returning to Lifeline after understudying the roles of Red Eyes/Happy Medium in A Wrinkle in Time. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Other credits include: Clybourne Park as Lena/Francine, Hellcab as Pregnant Woman, A Midsummer Nights Dream as Puck u/s, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot as Saint Matthew.

  • Max Stewart (Understudy)

    Max is thrilled to be working in his first show at Lifeline. Previous Chicago credits include The Missing at Chicago Fringe Festival, Jettison at Gorilla Tango, and The Time of Your Life at Artistic Home (U/S). Film and TV credits include They Wake Up and Tasmanian Tiger. Instagram: @maxflash4.

  • David Stobbe (Understudy)

    David is thrilled to be working with Lifeline! Recently David has been seen as Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead(Metropolis Theater) and in Bad Date (Stage Left’s Leap-fest) and New Faces Sing Broadway1969 (Porchlight). David is a member of the Bittersweet Arts Co. and received a B.A. in Musical Theater from Columbia College Chicago.

  • Christina Calvit (Adaptor)

    Christina is a Lifeline Theatre ensemble member. She has written over twenty theatrical adaptations which have been performed throughout the United States and internationally. Her work has won five Non-Equity Jeff Awards (most recently in 2016 for Miss Buncle’s Book), one Equity Jeff Award and one After Dark Award. Recent productions include Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Queen Lucia: A Musical Romp(with composer/lyricist George Howe), Mariette in Ecstasy, and A Room with a View. Her original plays include Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday Adventure, Chaos (co-writer), and Several Voices from the Cloud (Agnes Nixon Award, 1981).

  • Dorothy Milne (Director)

    Dorothy has directed over twenty productions at Lifeline, where she is an ensemble member and the Artistic Director. She received a Non-Equity Jeff Award (Direction) for Around the World in 80 Days; and Non-Equity Jeff Nominations (Direction) for Pistols for Two, Jane Eyre (for which she also received an After Dark Award), Strong Poison, and Gaudy Night. Outside of Lifeline, she most recently directed In To America for Griffin Theatre. Dorothy has also been writing and performing with the storytelling collective Sweat Girls for over 20 years, directs occasionally for 2nd Story and at Lifeline leads The Lifeline Storytelling Project and co-curates The Fillet of Solo Festival.

  • Kyle Bricker (Stage Manager)

    Kyle is excited to be making his Lifeline Theatre debut. He is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he earned his BFA in Stage Management. While at UIUC, Kyle worked in both Illinois Theatre and Dance. Illinois Theatre credits include Kingdom City, Polaroid Stories, 1984, and The Light in the Piazza. In dance, Kyle has worked on original pieces with choreographers such as Renée Wadleigh (The Quench), Abby Zbikowski (heavy planet), and Chad Michael Hall (Critical Mass). In Chicago Kyle, was the ASM for Dating and Dragons (The Factory Theatre).

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Alan is pleased for the 50th+ time be providing the scenic design for a Lifeline production. No wonder his back hurts. He counts Treasure Island, Mariette in Ecstasy, Pistols for Two, and Johnny Tremain among his favorites. Alan has also adapted Trust Me on This and Crossing California for the Lifeline MainStage and Bongo Larry & Two Bad Bears and Sophie’s Masterpiece for the Kidseries. He will return this coming summer with designs for his second Neverwhere.

  • Carrie Hardin (Dialect Coach)

    Carrie is pleased to be making her Lifeline debut with Sylvester. Some past credits include dialect work for London Assurance (City Lit), Henry V (Babes With Blades), Getting Out (Loyola University Chicago), A View from the Bridge (Redtwist Theatre), and Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Prologue Theatre at the Steppenwolf Garage), among others. Carrie was a founding member of Prologue Theatre Company.

  • Kyle Mundil Dye (Assistant Stage Manager)

    As one of the Fall 2017 fall interns, Kyle is ecstatic to make his Lifeline debut with Sylvester. Recent credits include: Artistic Director for A Child’s Christmas in Wales, South Pacific, and Annie Get Your Gun (Kearney Community Theatre); Artistic Director for The Creation of the World and Other Business (University of Nebraska at Kearney); and Stage Manager for Vintage (University of Nebraska at Kearney).

  • Curtis Edwin Powell (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    This is Curtis’ debut at Lifeline Theatre. Chicago area productions include: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Steppenwolf) and Yellowman(Stage 773), as well as numerous sound designs for theatres across the Midwest, Southwest and both coasts. Four of Curtis’ musicals have been produced in the Chicago area, including Fairways (Steel Beam), Chronic Malcontents (Endpoint), Waking Lazarus and Trafford Tanzi(Prologue Theatre). As an actor, Curtis last appeared as Ace in The Royal Society of Antarctica (Gift Theatre). His MA is from Northwestern University.

  • Ligia Sandoval (Choreographer)

    As a former intern, Ligia is excited to return and make her Lifeline Theatre choreography debut. Recent credits include: Choreographer for Abduction: The Musical (Stage 773), Assistant Director & Choreographer for Teatro Vista’s Romeo and Juliet (Apollo Theater Chicago), Production Manager for Hog’sBelly (Gorilla Tango Theatre), Production Assistant & “Security Guard” in Learning Curve (Albany Park Theater Project), and “Actor 2” in The 9 Fridas and “Ana María” in Alegrías y lágrimas (Instituto Cervantes).

  • Rachel Sypniewski (Costume Designer)

    Rachel is thrilled to be returning to Lifeline after previously designing Miss Holmes and Midnight Cowboy. Among her favorite Chicago credits are The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Trap Door, Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Costume Design); London Wall (Griffin, Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Costume Design); Titanic: The Musical (Griffin, Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Costume Design); La Bete (Trap Door, Non-Equity Jeff Award: Costume Design); Ragtime (Griffin); Into the Beautiful Northand Merchild (16th Street); The Woman in Black (WildClaw); Phadre(Trap Door). Rachel is the resident costume designer for Trap Door, an artistic associate with 16th Street Theater, and a company member with the Factory. www.rachelsyp.com

  • Eric Watkins (Lighting Designer)

    Eric is a lighting designer for theatre, opera, and dance, based in Chicago. Recent Chicago designs include 42 Stories and Psmith, Journalist (City Lit); Porcelain and Tea (Prologue Theatre); Deer and the Lovers(First Floor Theater); Fisheye (Dandelion Theatre); Any Other Name, [title of show], Art, and Gypsy (William Street Rep), Fallen(Mozawa), and The Property (Lyric Unlimited). Recent designs outside of Chicago include: Show Boat (The Dallas Opera), Cenerentola(Merola Opera in San Francisco), Alcina (Boston Conservatory), A Streetcar Named Desire (Opera Santa Barbara and Kentucky Opera), Marriage of Figaro (Merola Opera), and Barber of Seville (Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre). He received his MFA in lighting design from Boston University. www.ericwatkins.com

From Newcity

A Royal Delight: A Review of Sylvester at Lifeline Theatre
September 24, 2017
By Aaron Hunt

RECOMMENDED

The matriarch of the Regency romance novel Georgette Heyer borrowed loquaciously from Jane Austen and then threw in a little bodice-ripping Errol Flynn-on the high seas. If some critics accused Heyer of wallowing in over-lengthy exposition, the much-heralded Lifeline ensemble member Christina Calvit’s adaptation cuts through the minutiae to create a universal story, sailing on a whirlwind course.

Calvit’s frequent collaborator and Lifeline artistic director Dorothy Milne invites an ensemble of eight actors essaying many different roles to play a theatrical game of Chutes and Ladders, with the understanding that one cannot win the game of life and love without first spinning the wheel of chance. And play they do, changing in and out of costume designer Rachel Sypniewski’s quick-change clothes, climbing up the ladders and whizzing down the slides of Alan Donahue’s brilliantly whimsical set and somehow landing every moment on a beat.

Comic bits and heartfelt musings are timed to sound cues, which means this highly entertaining game is choreographed within an inch of its giddy life and yet the actors traipse through as though every intention sparks at the moment of understanding, metronome married to passion. The cast of Katie McLean Hainsworth, Terry Bell, Andrés Enriquez, Kate Hildreth, Kristina Loy, Samantha Newcomb, Wesley Scott and Sean Sinitski projected pure joy, kids in a British candy store. Newcomb was just right as a young woman demanding her agency in a frowning time, slowly melting into the now loving quietness of Enriquez’s equally compelling portrait of a gentleman grown stoic in answer to life’s stones, slowly opening to the love of a woman who would insist upon being his equal. And both are Bugs Bunny funny.

I’ve spent my summer gorging on the theatrical gifts of such companies as American Players Theatre, Door Shakespeare and Peninsula Players but this offering gave me greater pleasure. If “Sylvester” is a portent of the type of theater Chicago will enjoy in the upcoming season, I may so forget myself as to whistle in public.

From Chicago Theatre Review

That Hurly Burly Girl
September 25, 2017
By Ben Kemper

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The marriage game. Jane Austen wrote of its rules and pitfalls, so did Hardy, and so did Georgette Heyer, whose tale of mismatched persons, fantastic plots, and missteps of station give us the fun and frolicsome Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle. Sylvester Rayne Duke of Salford (Andrés Enriquez) a proud rich man with fascinating eyebrows stands aloof from the world, with a chill in his manner and a stick up his rear. Phoebe Marlow (Samantha Newcomb), aspiring authoress, is held in contempt by the world for being too plain, too outspoken, and too apt to tear away across the moors on horseback. The machinations of their elders throw these young persons together, much to their dismay. But an affinity and a shared sense of humor begin to draw them together, despite various impediments, most glaring is that the villain of Phoebe’s first novel bears a striking resemblance to the man she’s falling in love with.

In Dorothy Milne’s imaging of Christina Calvit’s sprightly adaptation the whole of the plot is played across a giant board of snakes and ladders, to mirror the characters standings in stature. It sounds like the gimmickiest gimmick of all the gimmicks but it works. Less the hight differences than the stack of giant monopoly cards that serves as humorous under narrative. But more than Alan Donahue’s beautiful board set and childish prosperities (including giant bouncy balls as stands in for horses, an undeniable stroke of utter brilliance) it is the playfulness of the ensemble, acting like the prongs and obstacles of a pinball game, bouncing our heroes all around. Kristina Loy (Alice a sprightly maid and Lady Inathe, Sylvester’s insipid sister in law, among others) never fails to let out a “whee!” when she goes down the slide or grin when she zips by on roller skates, and Katie McLean Hainsworth throws herself into playing a duchess a child or a dog with a serious twinkle.

The principal problem is a slow start and molasses thick accents that often obscure speech more than inform character. But by the time Sylvester and Phoebe are snowed in at a rural inn and phoebe passes the time by acting out characters of their ridiculous mutual acquaintance (masterfully on Newcomb’s part) our ears are suitably attuned and we’ve given enough room for our principals to show off their subtleties. Enriquez is a byronical hero to a T, full of knowing look and swallowed emotions, but allows himself to be drawn out cautiously of his shell. Newcomb keeps her heart decidedly off her sleeve, letting her cutting wit disguise her feelings, setting us up for a lovely view when her walls fall down. For lovers of Austen, inventive staging, and that warm feeling of camaraderie unique to the stage; Sylvester is a lovely evening reminding us that we can never win if we never play.

From the Chicago Tribune

Period romance plays out as a board game in clever ‘Sylvester’
September 20, 2017
By Kerry Reid

3 out of 4 stars

Using your socially connected friends and acquaintances as models for your fictional characters often leads to blowback. Just ask Truman Capote, who became an outcast when excerpts from his unfinished roman a clef, “Answered Prayers,” found their way into print.

At least Phoebe Marlow, the high-spirited writer at the heart of Georgette Heyer’s 1957 romance novel, “Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle,” is smart enough to use a nom de plume. But when she’s unmasked, her social status takes a hit that turns her into the Regency-era version of “Harriet the Spy,” standing alone in a ballroom as members of the London elite turn their backs on her.

Christina Calvit’s adaptation of “Sylvester” gets a sturdy world-premiere outing at Lifeline Theatre under Dorothy Milne’s direction, where Calvit previously unveiled adaptations of Heyer’s “The Talisman Ring,” “Pistols for Two” and “Cotillion.”

I missed those shows, but I greatly admired Calvit’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” with Lifeline. What’s fun about “Sylvester” is how Calvit plays up the Austen-like tropes in Heyer’s romance romp (Heyer is credited with inventing the historical romance genre) with a shaggy but ultimately endearing device.

That device sets the story as a live-action version of “Snakes and Ladders” (the ancient Indian game and progenitor of “Chutes and Ladders”), played out on Alan Donahue’s set with slides, ladders, representations of game boards and a big stack of cards turned over by the ensemble to reveal the next “move” for the characters. At various points, characters move around on scooters, roller skates, and bouncing balls that represent horses.

It doesn’t entirely cohere — at times there are unresolved tensions between the need to simply tell the story and the desire to wink at the audience through the whimsical mechanisms of the game. We’re not entirely clear how the characters themselves feel about being at the mercy of the cards.

But it does provide, overall, a nifty metaphor for the social ups and downs facing Phoebe (Samantha Newcomb) as she defies the wealthy and snobbish Sylvester Rayne, Duke of Salford (Andres Enriquez). The latter reluctantly seeks her hand — until he finds that he’s the model for the dastardly uncle in her book, “The Lost Heir.”

Really, it’s his visage more than his history that inspires her. “If he didn’t wish to figure as a villain, he shouldn’t have had those Satanic eyebrows,” she declares. However, Phoebe’s invention of a nephew and ward for her fictional character creates complications when it turns out that Sylvester does have a nephew, entrusted to his care by his beloved late brother.

Said nephew (played at various intervals by members of the ensemble — and by one audience member — by donning a sailor cap) is kidnapped by his self-centered mother, Lady Ianthe Rayne (Kristina Loy) and her new foppish spouse, Sir Nugent Fotherby (Wesley Scott), sending Phoebe and her wingman/childhood friend, Thomas Orde (Terry Bell), across the British Channel to try to rescue him. When Sylvester joins the pursuit, both he and Phoebe readjust their initial opinions of each other — after, of course, a wiser and older woman plays a few cards of her own.

That’s pretty much standard operating procedure in Austen’s world, and thus Heyer’s world. A proud man and an impetuous woman clash despite their mutual, if unacknowledged, attraction to each other, and can only come together again once a crisis has shown the better angels of both their natures.

In Phoebe’s case, as with Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, she needs to overcome her own prejudice about the snobby set she eviscerated in her book. “They’re not people I know,” she says of her characters. “They’re society. And I changed all their names.” But when someone stops being a playing piece on a game board and takes on three-dimensional aspects, it’s harder to reduce them to a caricature.

Milne’s staging keeps the action moving crisply for the most part, with fine supporting turns in a variety of ensemble roles from Sean Sinitski, Katie McLean Hainsworth and Kate Hildreth. Enriquez (who does have expressive, if not diabolical, eyebrows) manages the not-so-easy task of making a stiff-necked man also seem capable of romantic fire, even if it’s temporarily banked. And Newcomb is largely delightful as the paradoxical Phoebe, who is both outspoken (particularly on the page) and shy (especially in social settings).

There are some plot points that feel inadequately fleshed out, even with all the inventive stagecraft, and a few moments that don’t entirely connect. But despite some narrative hiccups, Calvit’s adaptation and Milne’s staging make for an affectionate spoof of a romantic genre that, while periodically updated, hasn’t really changed the rules of the game in over 200 years.

From Splash Magazines

Sylvester at Lifeline Theatre Review – Regency Romance and Comedic Delight

October 2, 2017
By Suzanne Magnuson

While nearly everyone has heard of Jane Austen, it’s usually only Romance novel readers who are familiar with the work of Georgette Heyer, who is one of the founders of the modern romance novel, particularly the entire Regency sub-genre. Picking up where Austen left off, Heyer created a remarkable body of delightful work from the 1920s through the time of her death in the 1970s. She was particularly known for her painstaking research into fashion and the period as well as her snappy dialogue. Lifeline’s adaptation of Sylvester, one of her most popular novels, is typical of both Austen and Heyer and a must-see for any fan of either.

Sylvester is the proud, young Duke of Salford, goes to the home of his godmother’s granddaughter, Phoebe, to inspect the young woman as a potential marriage prospect. Before his arrival, she’s told by her step-mother that he will make an offer she can’t refuse. They meet, Sylvester finds Phoebe insipid and she is horrified at the idea of being forced to marry anyone and especially not Sylvester as she is secretly a novelist and has published a satirical book based on salacious rumors about Sylvester, himself.

She talks her childhood friend Tom into helping her run away from home and potential marriage to take refuge with her grandmother in London. They do so. Sylvester finds out the girl has “eloped” with Tom and is relieved. On his way back to London he finds Phoebe’s carriage, which has been in an accident in a snowstorm. Sylvester stops to help, as Tom has broken his leg in the accident. While they are all trapped at a substandard inn while the snow continues, Sylvester discovers Phoebe is actually clever and charming. He vows to make her sorry she didn’t want to marry him.

You can basically see this is following the general formula of an Austen or Heyer novel and it continues delightfully in this fashion with many impediments thrown in the way of the young couple’s happiness and lots of satire of ridiculous people in high society. Watching the talented cast headed by Andres Enriquez (Sylvester) and Samantha Newcomb (Phoebe) makes the snappy dialogue Heyer is known for even more charming. They have a ton of chemistry and you can see them having fun playing these well-known types.

In order to make this sprawling novel that takes place in grand houses across England and contains enormous amounts of carriage rides, horseback rides and abductions via ship make sense in the tiny space of the Lifeline Stage, they’ve added a game-show conceit that I’m not entirely certain works. It’s based on snakes and ladders and involves some rather funny Monopoly-style “game” cards, but the material really begs for a BBC or Merchant Ivory Production.

However, using children’s bouncy balls as horses and having various members of the cast playing the child ward Edward (including at one point a member of the audience who is provided lines on a cue card) works wonderfully well and is hilarious. There is also clever costuming with people basically throwing on robes or coats over a plain base costume so they can all take on multiple roles. The entire cast is required to do this outside of the two leads, playing multiple characters wonderfully.

Watch for Terry Bell’s stalwart turn as Tom, Kristina Loy who is hilarious as both Lady Ianthe and Alice the maid, Katie McClean Hainsworth who plays everything from Lady Marlow to a dog and is by far the most hilarious Edward, Wesley Scott whose Sir Nugent Fotherby is the ultimate fop, and Kate Hildreth and Sean Sinitsky rounding out the cast with multiple roles for each, each distinct and each utterly charming.

If you enjoy costume drama not so much for the costumes as for the clever dialogue and character interactions, this adaptation of Sylvester is absolutely for you. Go and see it.

From Picture This Post

September 25, 2017
By Jacob Davis

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Lifeline Adaptation is Stage-Specific

How do you do a Regency romance that takes advantage of the specific possibilities of theatre, as opposed to a reduced film version? Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Christina Calvit has some experience with that problem, having adapted several of Georgette Heyer’s historical novels for the company since 1995. Her latest offering, Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle, uses the conceit of a game of Snakes and Ladders (better known by its variant, Chutes and Ladders) to represent the social jockeying of its characters and their moral decisions. It’s a source of endless amusement that complements Calvit’s character-driven storyline and provides director Dorothy Milne with a dynamic way of staging action scenes that would be hard to do realistically.

A Scandal Borne Out of Careless Cruelty

A chorus introduces us to our two protagonists: minor noblewoman and secret novelist Phoebe Marlow (Samantha Newcomb) and Sylvester Rayne, the Duke of Salford (Andrés Enriquez). Phoebe made her societal debut the previous season and was received with general indifference, which suits her just fine but enrages her ambitious, wicked step-mother. Sylvester was deeply wounded by the death of his younger brother, whose son he is now the guardian of. He thinks this means he is obliged to take a wife. Phoebe’s grandmother decides it would be a grand idea to set up Phoebe and Sylvester as a match, but Phoebe has no interest in marriage and formed a negative opinion of Sylvester due to his haughty treatment of his servants and his “Satanic eyebrows.” She even wrote him as the villain of her book, which she expects to soon be published to delicious scandal.

Thinking she will be forced into a marriage, Phoebe flees with her loyal groomsman, Thomas Orde (Terry Bell), but their carriage crashes and they wind up dependent on Sylvester for help. This turns out not be a bad thing, and he and Phoebe warm up to each other. However, Phoebe is unable to prevent the novel from being published, which not only humiliates Sylvester, but turns out to strike at him much more personally than Phoebe had meant to. He figures out she’s the author and is furious even before the book inspires his ward’s irresponsible mother and dirtbag new husband to attempt to abduct her son, creating a strong possibility of substantial, lasting harm.

When Lovers are Their Own Greatest Obstacle

True to the characters of Heyer’s inspiration, Jane Austen, Phoebe and Sylvester are likeable enough to start with but have a lot of growing to do. Newcomb’s performance makes Phoebe a wry, introspective, sharp-tongued, and socially awkward anti-heroine while Enriquez’s Sylvester is gentlemanly but a bit insensitive and transparently insincere in his pleasantries. Much of the show’s humor is derived from the spins and cards of the Snakes and Ladders game delivering instant karma and commenting on our leads’ bad behavior. The six-person chorus takes great delight in setting up fraught situations and in stepping in to play all the other characters (except Sylvester’s ward, who nobody wants to play and they foist on each other). We most definitely get the feeling that they want Phoebe and Sylvester to get together, but in a way that makes the game interesting and only after they’ve earned it. They’re good stand-ins for the audience.

Director Dorothy Milne makes Alan Donahue’s scenic design, with all its slides and levels, into an integral part of the story. Besides being a visual aid regarding the characters’ status, it allows variation in blocking during several parts of the story which consist of characters getting to know each other better while stuck due to traveling conditions.

Donahue also designed hilarious props which add to the atmosphere of the game and keep it fanciful. Despite these odd ways of representing the Regency world, Milne keeps the stakes high, and there’s real tension when it seems impossible for Phoebe and Sylvester to reconcile. The play is a whole lot of fun and, though it revels in the genre’s artificiality, it faithfully captures the spirit.

From Windy City Times

September 25, 2017
By Mary Shen Barnidge

Regency Romances, preferably adapted for the stage by Christina Calvit, never fail to delight Lifeline audiences, who could happily revel in ladies wearing long dresses and gentlemen clad in tight breeches for as many seasons as Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer et al. are able to provide material. Every so often, however, the company (celebrating its 35th anniversary) departs from conventional historical accuracy to impose an innovative visual metaphor on its literary universe.

The metaphor, in this case, is a board game titled “Snakes and Ladders,” sporting a playing field replete with gaudy apparatus for climbing and sledding. This framing device amply justifies its presence since the course of true love in this Georgette Heyer romp involves no less than THREE plot lines—the volatile courtship and hard-won reconciliation of soulmates differing in temperament, of course, but also the social repercussions launched by the successful publication of the latter’s satirical roman a clef, in addition to a legal battle for custody of a spoiled child waged by manifestly unsuitable parents.

Given the changes of locale mandated by entangled affairs catapulting our hapless conspirators through fashionable London and its country environs, over the waters of the English Channel and into a temporary refuge in France, who could object to the orderly progress facilitated by a draw of cards informing the players ( and us ) in efficiently concise terms, of each character’s advancement or regression — e.g. “Long conversation. Skip a turn” — occasionally augmented by commentary. (“So you won. Now what?”)

Layering motifs associated with Panto (did I mention the roller skates, the scooters or the exercise-ball horses?) onto an already giddy scenario runs the risk of dividing our attention to a degree more overwhelming than amusing. Under the direction of Dorothy Milne and the dialect instruction of Carrie Hardin, a cast of exuberant newcomers and stalwart regulars keep the action sprinting apace at brisk and merry velocity and the repartee likewise nimble. Samantha Newcomb and Andres Enriquez make an exemplary pair of reluctant sweethearts, and Kristina Loy and Wesley Scott an equally buffoonish pair of antagonists, with Kate Hildreth, Sean Sinitski, Terry Bell and Katie McLean Hainsworth in multiple roles contributing to the hijinks (which may include a lone audience member pressed into service for a cameo line-reading).

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