Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-08-21
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



THEATER REVIEW The Spitfire Grill
by Lauren Emily Whalen

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Playwright: James Valcq and Fred Alley, based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff

At: American Blues Theatre at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: $19-49; Runs through: Aug. 17

Female-driven musicals are still a rarity. The climate is changing with the successes of shows like Waitress, The Prom and Six ( the latter is now headed to Broadway in 2020 ), but the demand for rich female characters and stories remains.

The Spitfire Grill is not driven by one woman, but three—each with her own demons and triumphs and eventually, a shared goal. American Blues Theater's production tends to rush the dramatic moments in the name of tight pacing, but the stunning vocals and complex storyline make for a pleasant yet empowering night at the theater.

Based on the 1996 film of the same name, The Spitfire Grill opens with Percy Talbott ( Jacquelyne Jones ) arriving in Gilead, Wisconsin after five years of incarceration. Sheriff Joe Sutter ( Donterrio Johnson ), also Percy's parole officer, is confused as to why anyone would willingly move to such a tiny town. Percy quickly finds a job at the Spitfire Grill—the only restaurant in town—and a boss/landlady in tough-as-nails Hannah Ferguson ( Catherine Smitko ), as well as a friend in Hannah's niece-in-law Shelby ( Dara Cameron ). The three cook up a scheme to unload the restaurant that's been on the market for 10 years, but soon enough, each woman will be forced to confront her past, present and future.

In the world of Gilead ( thankfully very different from the Gilead of The Handmaid's Tale ), men are almost inconsequential, relegated to good guys or buffoons ( the latter is Hannah's nephew and Shelby's husband Caleb, played by Karl Hamilton ). There's a romantic subplot, but it pales in comparison to the three women's journeys, both individual and collective. Percy is running away from a troubled, violent family dynamic, while Shelby struggles to find her voice in a controlling marriage. Meanwhile, Hannah must contend with a broken leg and the memories of a son who disappeared long ago. James Valcq and Fred Alley's country-western score deftly conveys every complex emotion, from longstanding grief to pure and unadulterated joy, and illustrates both major and minor characters with nuance.

Where this Spitfire Grill falls down is in the pacing. Director Tammy Mader keeps the production moving at exactly two hours counting intermission, but at the expense of the dramatic reveals, many of which occur in the show's second half. Mader is skilled in characterization but seems afraid to let actors and audience alike take a breath and absorb the characters' words and actions. It's a shame, because the seven-member ensemble bring their best work to the stage, especially Jones as ex-con Percy. Her range is astounding, her lyrical interpretation intelligent and down-home, and her struggles real. If it weren't for The Spitfire Grill's somewhat hasty delivery, American Blues Theatre would have a gem on its hands. Instead, it's just this shy of perfect.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

BAC Announces Season of Inclusion, Productions to Focus on Diversity 2019-08-21 - ( Chicago, August 20, 2019 ) — The Beverly Arts Center announces the productions for their upcoming 2019-2020 season, dubbed the "Season of ...

Gay News

Muslim performers' event Aug. 30-31 2019-08-21 - On Aug. 30-31, at 8 p.m., the Muslim Writers Collective will host a program at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., with artists ...

Gay News

Bechdel Fest 7 set for Aug. 25-28 2019-08-21 - Broken Nose Theatre ( BNT ) has announced the full line-up for Bechdel Fest 7: Momentum—the company's annual festival of new short plays ...

Gay News

About Face names new associates 2019-08-21 - About Face Theatre has announced the addition of five new artists to the company's roster of artistic associates. Along with Artistic Director ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW You Can't Fake the Funk 2019-08-21 - Author: Daryl D. Brooks At: Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark St. Tickets:, 773-769- 4451; $55-65. Runs through Sept. 22 Enjoyment ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW All Quiet on the Western Front 2019-08-21 - Playwright: adapted by Matt Foss, from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque At: Red Tape Theatre at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The Fly Honey Show 2019-08-21 - Authors: Erin Killmurray ( concept ), Mary Williamson and Shannon Matesky. At: The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets:; $22.50-$45, ...

Gay News

Critics' Picks 2019-08-21 - The Band's Visit, Cadillac Palace, Sept. 3-15—Critics' Picks rarely promotes shows not yet open, but this disarming, tender, compassionate and entertaining musical must ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Women of 4G 2019-08-21 - Playwright: Amy Tofte At: Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard St. Tickets: and; $20-$28. Runs through: Sept. 14 It is ...

Gay News

Kinley Preston previews Lips Chicago dinner theater 2019-08-21 - Lips, billed as "the ultimate in drag dining," is locating its fifth location in Chicago. The South Loop venue, opening to the public ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.