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Theater Shows
Wild Nights With Emily

Party girl or poet?

centerstage reviewed this performanceReviewed by Centerstage!Go Chicago!

Lincoln Square Theatre
4754 N. Leavitt St.
Chicago, IL 60625 Map This Place!Map it
Tickets: or (312) 409-4778

Madeleine Olnek


Related Info:
Official website

Runs March 6, 2010-April 11, 2010

Friday8 p.m
Saturday3 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Sunday7 p.m.

Recommended a "Must See" Show

Hot! Lesbian! New England! Poets! Caffeine Theatre shows us a different side of Emily Dickinson with this hallucinatory, po-mo exploration of the writer's gay love affair and its subsequent erasure by a literary executor. Some critics find the play's theatrical tricks a bit much, but most are utterly seduced.

reviewed performanceCenterstage Show Review
Reviewer: C.S.E. Cooney
Saturday Mar 06, 2010

Sometimes theater will evoke a sensation of voyeurism so intimate it is like watching a nightingale sing "with her breast against a thorn." Good theater will make you laugh while witnessing this, gasp because you are laughing, pity the bird and love the music all at once.

Caffeine Theatre's "Wild Nights with Emily" does this. It is a story of Emily Dickinson that explores a side of her life "the literature books don't generally acknowledge": her romance with lifelong friend Susan Gilbert, and the eradication of its evidence by literary executor Mabel Todd. Actresses Jessica Bennett, Dana Black and Amanda Hartley exhibit humor, pathos and dazzling chemistry in their portrayal of these ladies.

No aspect of Caffeine Theatre's production is neglected. The quick, disciplined choreography of music and movement, the occasional shadow puppetry, unexpected dimensions to the set, surprising elements in the costumes - all work together to make "Wild Nights with Emily" as astonishing as it is bawdy, as lyrical to watch as it is to hear.

New York playwright Madeleine Olnek's script is sexy, whacky, whimsical and furiously clever. It plays with time and perception, with facts and flights of fancy. It is often poetic, sometimes pragmatic ("Austen, your sideburn is in my eye."). It is a play for adults. The ensemble members handle their material with glee and precision; it is obvious they had a skillful director in Meghan Beals McCarthy and a knowledgeable dramaturge in Caffeine Theatre's artistic director Jennifer Shook.

Like its set which at the start of the play is roped-off in sections like the Amherst museum, only to be slowly dismantled as the play progresses "Wild Nights with Emily" demolishes scene by scene our preconceptions of an American poet, her life, her love, the manner of her death and the words she left behind.

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