Today we visited the Newberry Library, opened in 1893, and home of a world famous Renaissance Studies Center, including not only a First Folio of Shakespeare, but an extensive collection of first editions of plays by Thomas Heywood (1574-1641), whose play The Fair Maid of the West Part 1 we intended to see. (We doubted we would ever have another chance to see this adventure-comedy about Bess Bridges, a barmaid who travels the world for her love, blessing all whom she encounters.
The play was presented by the nineteen year old Shakespeare Project of Chicago, who, working under a special Actors Equity contract limiting rehearsals to 15 hours in a one week period, depend upon wise directors and intelligent and talented actors.
This production had both.
Directed by Artistic Director Peter Garino, the play was totally engaging, fast paced, and enchanting. One only wished the proscenium blocking could have been better adjusted to the Newberry’s thrust staging arena.
All of the actors were first rate, with a few exceptionally wonderful ones:Barbara Zahora as Bess, Jeff Christian as Mr. Roughman, Chris Roe as Clem, Usman Ally as the King of Fez,and Richard Marlatt playing Mr. Carroll, the Mayor of Foy, and a Preacher.
Dramaturg Tony Dobrowolski got the event off to a rousing start with a lively, informative introduction to Heywood and his times.
The company is a Chicago treasure