A Loss of Roses

By William IngeA Loss of Roses_0

Directed by Cody Estle

At Raven Theatre

Powerful Depression Era drama a rare classic

William Inge (1913-73) was a playwright/novelist best know for writing Picnic and Bus Stop. His 1959 lost gem, A Loss of Roses, is being remounted by Raven Theatre in a strong production under the tight direction of Cody Estle. Set in 1933 in a small town near Kansas City, A Loss of Roses is a kitchen-sink drama about emotionally and psychologically scarred individuals.

We meet Helen Baird (Abigail Boucher) the widowed mother who dotes on and controls her 21 year old son Kenny (Sam Hubbard). The two have a love/hate relationship going on as mother wants her son to marry and achieve in life. Kenny is content to stay at  home and be an auto mechanic. Kenny suffers from low self-esteem and guilt from surviving his father’s death in a drowning accident. Both are surviving the Depression, as mother is a nurse.


Their passive existence is shattered when Lila Green (Eliza Stoughton), Helen’s old friend who was a sort-of nanny to Kenny as a small child, asks to stay with the Bairds when her traveling acting company goes bankrupt. Lila is an emotional wreck, having been in a mental institute for depression. She is extremely insecure, depending on a man  for moral support. She is lonely even among people. Inge’s three person dynamic is wonderfully played out with the richly drawn characters Inge has created. We empathize and sympathize with Helen and, of course, Lila. We aren’t quite sure  what to think about the unambitious and instant gratification life style from Kenny.

The sparks fly, the flaws of each of the three main characters, and the line become crossed as loyalties and friendships are tested as each seek love and trust in each other. Can Kenny become motivated toward success and fulfillment? Will Lila ever find a man who will treat her with dignity? And can Helen let go and accept Kenny’s life style?

roses12 Eliza-Stoughton-and-Sam-Hubbard-in-Loss-of-Roses-RAven_thumb

This makes for a engaging drama about real flawed characters  struggling to let go of their fears and foibles as they learn to let go and start living. The results for some as positive realizations and others stay trapped in their negative worlds.

The result is a beautifully written, expertly staged, and effectively performed drama. Abigail Boucher, as Helen, Sam Hubbard, as Kenny, were strong but the emotionally power of Eliza Stroughton’s performance as the fragile Lila was magnificent!

Come experience one of the finest American playwright’s worthy plays that, somehow, gets second billing but is not second rate.  A Loss of Roses is a rarely produced gem that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: February 23, 2016

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the A Loss of Roses page at

At Raven Theatre’s West Stage, 6157 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call 773-338-2177,, tickets 439 – $42, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sunday at 3;30pm with select Saturday matinees at 3:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through April 2, 2016