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THEATER REVIEW For Services Rendered
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2019-06-05

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By: W. Somerset Maugham

At: Griffin Theatre Company at TheDen Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets: 773-697-3830 or GriffinTheatre.com; $32-$37. Runs through: July 6

Bisexual novelist and playwright W. Somerset Maugham kicked up a scandal with For Services Rendered. It's a harshly critical 1932 drama about post-World War I Britain.

Now receiving a rare revival courtesy of Griffin Theatre Company, For Services Rendered can still can rile contemporary audiences. Yet it can be more for its outdated views and uncomfortable treatment of women in our #MeToo age than its intended targets of blind patriotism and military cutbacks.

For Services Rendered unfolds in the well-appointed drawing room of the well-off Ardsley family. The father, Leonard ( Eddie Dzialo ), is a jingoistic lawyer who bemoans the fact that his battle-blinded son, Sydney ( Israel Antonio ), won't be able to follow him into the family firm.

Meanwhile the family matriarch, Charlotte ( Lynda Shadrake ), is reluctant to follow the advice of her brother, Dr. Prentice ( Tim Newell ), to be examined for her ongoing physical pain.

But the bulk of the drama centers on the grown trio of Ardsley sisters. They each are dealing with their own personal fallout from the war.

Ethel ( Ella Pennington ) married beneath her class to Howard Bartlett ( Matt Fletcher ), a drunkard tenant farmer who pines for his long-gone military days. Eva ( Marika Mashburn ) lost her intended to the war and now has her sights on the decommissioned naval officer, Collie Stratton ( Robert Quintanilla ). But he's struggling with a failing business.

Then there's the main beauty of the family, Lois ( Krystal Ortiz ), who worries about her lost youth—at the age of 26 ( ! ). Lois catches the eye of an older married admirer, Wilfred Cedar ( Matt Rockwood ), despite the efforts of his wife, the flighty and flinty Gwen ( Cindy Marker ), to keep them apart.

Director Robin Witt oversees a handsomely decorated production that is a dream for lovers of period British dramas. It's full of lovely costumes by designer Aly Renee Amidei and boasts a realistic set by designer Sotirios Lavaditis.

The performances from the cast are all well attuned to the shocking soap-opera dynamics of Maugham's script—especially Mashburn who gets to let loose as Eva with a flashy Act III rant that becomes a breakdown.

Now if only there was more consistency to the variable and sometimes dodgy British accents ( though Jennifer Huddleston sounds fine as the Irish maid Gertrude ).

Although it doesn't touch upon soldiers dealing with "shell shock," For Services Rendered does fascinate by allowing audiences to draw parallels to today. There have always been problems of returning soldiers trying to reintegrate into society, plus there are hidden scars borne by those on the home front.


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