Mary Stuart: A Theater Review

I have long been a fan of all things Elizabethan.  That shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It is a time period that is remembered for its richness in drama and poetry. The leap to why I am  a fan isn’t difficult.

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier is my ideal theater. If someone IMG_3346
wanted to leave a legacy and build a theater for Overshadowed Theatrical Productions and told me they would build me anything I wanted….this would be the dream theater!  I love the intimacy. It seats hundreds, but there is not a seat in the house that you would feel apart from the action. It is breathtaking.So marry my favorite time period and favorite theater?? I HAVE to see this. So, in my very first theater review ever….here are my thoughts about the current production of Schiller’s Mary Stuart, directed by Jenn Thompson, now playing at the Chicago Shakespeare Courtyard Theatre.

As a warning, as I review a show I will be approaching it as a director. These are the ideas that are flooding my head while most of you just sit and watch the story unfold!


The costume design by Linda Cho is fascinating. The color choices are divine with the boldness of Elizabeth mixed with the grey tones of all the men who surround her. The collars and neckpieces that complete each of her looks are so eye-catching that I found myself drawn to look at the details that completed her characters. The uniqueness of the men’s costumes had to be inspired. There are literally no words to describe these outfits. I loved the mixed subtle textures that highlighted the men’s suits that combined touches of modern, vintage and Elizabethan styles. How is that even possible. Brilliant!

Set Design and Technical

From the moment the play started the simplicity of the set captured the audience. Its starkness helped to set the tone of imprisonment for Mary. The air was filled with just the right amount of haze which always gives the light character. There were very few props that needed to be moved-just a simple bench here and there which helped the play to move at an enjoyable pace. The highlight for me was at the start of ACT II when the stage opened up to reveal a long rectangle of water that Mary waded in and ultimately used to kick water in the Queen’s face! Can I say again how much I love this theater??


IMG_3601“From the moment the play starts there are a lot of words and very little action” says Suzanne Altizer (my companion for the evening) Those words? Wow! They were said quickly. Even though my ear usually adapts to the rhythm of the speech fairly quickly, I’m going to confess that I probably missed at least ten percent of what was going on. I didn’t love Mary. I know. You are probably thinking, “What? K.K. Moggie (Mary) and Kellie Overbey  (Elizabeth) have both received rave  reviews!” I do understand that. K.K. was passionate and full of life and intense and truly gave a wonderful performance. I just couldn’t come to grips with that picture of Mary in my mind. Her Mary was earthy and a little out of control. She yelled. Most of the time. She moved. Most of the time. It was distracting. I wanted a regal Mary. I wanted femininity. I think it is possible to be a strong passionate yet regal woman and leader. Now before you all think I’m being critical of any women today-I am not. I just think back in the 1850’s royalty was taught certain ways to carry themselves–among other things.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, I loved. I loved the way she carried herself. I loved the way she watched and contemplated and I even loved the way she wavered. I loved the way she wanted to be loved, but honestly didn’t know who to trust. Kellie gave a powerful performance that I will not soon forget.

All the supporting actors were equally enjoyable to watch. In this play the author, Schiller, places many men in the lives of both Elizabeth and Mary. As they profess their loyalty and love to both of them I found the complexity of the acting fascinating. I especially loved Mortimer, played by Andrew Chown. I loved the body tension that was part of his character. He was spellbinding as he portrayed a man trying so desperately to save his queen that he seemed a little insane as the play progressed.

Favorite Lines

The play is full of wit and quips. Don’t we all love to laugh? These are a couple  of my favorites:

“I thank God in heaven that it wasn’t His will that I bend to you as you are now bending to me in that trough.”

“Your face freezes my speech.” (I’m going to need to remember that one.)


Mary Stuart is a thought provoking play. It is strangely relevant to today’s society making me think again about our current political climate. What must in be like to be in power? Who tells the truth? Who plays both sides? Who points the finger and runs? What must it have been like to be one of those two queens? I feel that they were both prisoners long before the end of their game.

What are your thoughts?

Mary Stuart only runs until April 15th. It is well worth the cost of admission. You can check it out here. www.chicagoshakes.com

4 thoughts on “Mary Stuart: A Theater Review”

  1. Great review! And I must agree witb you – hands down my favorite performance venue in Chicago! Not a bad seat in the place. Miss seeing productions there, and it sounds from your review that this show would be a treat to see!


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