Review "A Life": An Octet Cast With All The Right Angles!

Northlight Theatre presents



North Shore Center for the Performing Arts

9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, Illinois

Written by Hugh Leonard

Directed by BJ Jones

Extended Thru May 2nd

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Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission


Total his sums. Demand an audit.  Decide what he amounts to.  Northlight Theatre presents A LIFE starring Tony award winner John Mahoney.  Desmond Drummer is retirement bound.  He analyzes his life with his practical debits and credits methodology.  On the plus side, he has his superior intellectual wit.  On the downside, he is detached from his childhood friend, simpleton wife, and provincial town.  How did he get to this place?  A LIFE depicts the origins and the destination in the journey of four people.  Simultaneously set in 1977 and 1937, Desi, Mary, Dolly and Lar grow up in Dalkey, Ireland.  With all the charm and wit the Irish are famous for, A LIFE has all the makings for the next big pub song about a man’s unrequited love, unfulfilled ambition and unrelenting malice.


 Oh there goes Desmond Drumm,

 his life was a matter of facts,

 his wife was a target for cracks,

 thought he was the wit,  

to the town a misfit,

oh there goes Desmond Drumm…    (sounds best with shots of Jamison).  


Mary and Drumm both pairs.jpg

John Mahoney (Desmond) leads the superb cast. Not quite consistent in his Irish dialect, Mahoney delivers the intellectual barbs with a drollness that would make Frazier and Niles swell in pride.  Penny Slusher (Dolly) creates a character happily content with not knowing.  Whether it’s deciphering the punchline or the truth, Slusher’s delightful facial expressions are a combination of vacant and bliss.  She shuts her husband off with a cheerful, ‘I’m not answering you.  You are in the glooms.’  Linda Kimbrough (Mary) is authentically Irish delivering lyrical analogies like ‘there is a nun inside of you’ mixed in with moments of pure disdain.  Bradley Armacost (Lar) is the peace and mischief maker as a playful drunk gobshite.   The younger cast captures the characters’ budding personalities with the hopeful decisiveness of the unknown.  Matt Schwader (Desmond) hides a lack of self esteem behind a façade of superiority.  His stubborn arrogance derails him from aspirations.  Joanne Dubach (Dolly) is a love-struck teen focused on the end goal, matrimony.  Melanie Keller (Mary) agonizes with the choice between a boy offering a never-ending intellectual makeover or a boy enthralled with her ‘creemy brests.’  Rob Belushi (Lars) is the dashing good time party goer.


John, Matt, Penny, Joanne 2644H.jpg

BJ Jones has assembled an octet with all the right angles.  Aided by the clever writing of playwright Hugh Leonard, Jones transports the audience to a small town in Ireland at two different time periods.  Through the magic of flashbacks, the audience is able to see the directional choices that inhibited the journey of an Irish foursome.   In one whimsical moment, the younger couple walks through a scene of their older versions in conversation.   A LIFE is one man’s quest to determine his worth at the end of his journey.   Undoubtedly, experiencing A LIFE will provoke personal audits.  Hopefully, those running in the red, will decide to get a life!


Your man who will be in heaven ten minutes before talking to God, James says, “winning, winsome, well-acted.”



When in Skokie… we decide again to enjoy the convenient cuisine at Portillo’s, 9400 Skokie Boulevard.  Out of deference to your man’s heritage, I order the Italian beef.  I deny myself the pleasure of sweet peppers to ensure my gasless enjoyment of a two hour play.  I’m asked if it’s ‘to go’ or ‘dine in?’  I tell your woman, ‘dine in.’  I pick it up yards away bagged ‘to go.’  The same thing happens to James.  The question must be asked out of curiosity and not intended to change protocol.  It’s still tasty!  Portillo’s  has a steady stream of comings and goings.  It’s obvious the town of Skokie enjoys a life of simple pleasures wrapped in paper with a side of ketchup.



A LIFE  photographs courteous of Michael Brosilow.


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