Citadel Theatre origins begin twenty years ago with the visions of Artistic Director Scott Phelps and his lovely wife and Managing Director Ellen Phelps. They met in Louisville and on moving to the North Shore they wished to keep working in theater. They scouted around for a facility to house a playhouse. They were offered for $1.00 a year for the United States National Historic Landmark Fort Sheridan water tower. This was once the tallest building in Chicago. Unfortunately, refurbishing this structure would have cost more than 50,000 dollars, a prohibitive amount for a fledgling theater company. The water tower however did inspire the moniker for Citadel theater. First situated for seven years in Groton Community Center they have since come to be housed at a Lake Forest School former science laboratory.
This 145 seat theater is an intimate space with superior ventilation vital to reducing the concentration of airborne contaminants, so important right now. You are so close to the stage on all three sides linking you dramatically to the actors. The stated mission of their company is “Citadel Theatre is committed to producing exciting, compelling, emotionally and intellectually rich work of the highest caliber by bringing together gifted professionals from all theatrical disciplines.” They certainly achieved this goal on opening night for Outside Mullingar.
I had never been to this theater and found Scott and Ellen greeting guests at the front desk lobby. They were so personable, helpful, gracious, and welcoming. They toured me around the facilities and shared the origins of the theater company. Everyone I met that evening was very welcoming and friendly. I was delighted by Jeff Award winner, Eric Luchen’s staging of the kitchen cottage in Killucan, Ireland. He set the mood flawlessly.
The presentation of John Patrick Shanley’s Outside Mullingar (February through March 13) is a perfect play for both Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day Holidays. Director Beth Wolf says, “I was first drawn to Outside Mullingar because I was excited at the idea of a love story between characters who were my age” (40 something)… It’s never too late–or so we hope for Rosemary and Anthony, if only they can get out of their own way.”
Laura Leonardo Ownby is thrilled to be making her debut as Rosemary on the Citadel Stage. She is a lovely, frank, quirky, but lonely next-door neighbor who fears this is her last chance to express her true feelings for the shy awkward Anthony who may be leaving the farmstead. Anthony is played by veteran Citadel actor Ross Frawley. Although he is painfully shy and a bumbler when it comes to romance and love, we come to see a charming fellow through Anthony’s loving nurturing care of his curmudgeonly father. Tony, his father, dismissively threatens to sell the farm homestead out from under Anthony. Rosemary would lose her next-door neighbor Anthony. We are rooting for Anthony and Rosemary to make a love connection.
Jack Hickey, a proud forty-year member of the Actors’ Equity Association is happy to make his first appearance with Citadel in this lovely show. His television credits include Chicago Med and Unsolved Mysteries. He plays Tony the father to Anthony with aplomb.
Susan Hofflander, also an Actors’ Equity Association member plays Aoife. Leonard Bernstein is quoted describing her as “…the voice of Jenny Tourel ( Premier Operatic Mezzo-soprano) and the comic timing of Rosalind Russell.” She has the voice of an angel and I wished she had the opportunity to sing more than a few chords for us. She is a featured soloist in opera companies and orchestras nationwide. You may have seen her at the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Chicago Symphony, or a host of other musical venues.
In order to protect everyone, the following Covid Procedures have been instituted: all patrons must show proof of Vaccination or a negative test result taken no more than 72 hours before the performance. All actors, crew, and additional production staff are fully vaccinated. Audience members must be fully masked-up the entire time. Additionally, no visitors will be allowed backstage and no interaction between actors, stage managers, and patrons.
Ample close free parking is available. Ticket prices range from $20.00 for previews and $40.00-$45.00 for regular runs. For more information, ticketing, and to donate to this 501 (c)3 non-profit organization, please visit Citadel Online or call (847) 735-8554.
Photos: Courtesy of North Shore Camera Club