Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Analytical Engine

By Jon SteinhagenThe Analytical Engine by Jon Steinhagen

Directed by Bob Knith

At Circle Theatre Forest Park

Promising world premiere drawing room comedy of manners as its moments

Jon Steinhagen is a multi-talented playwright, actor and musician whose new play–The Analytical Engine,now playing at Circle Theatre-is a throw-back comedy of manners set in 1850 with a modern sensibility.

The Analytical Engine by Jon Steinhagen

We meet the Powell’s of Connecticut–a most peculiar threesome of zany personalities. Marigold Powell (Catherine Ferraro) is the fiction novel writer with a sharp tongue.  Virginia Powell ( Mary Redmon), the mother, burn most meals, misuses the English language and she fakes being stupid. Hippolyta Powell (Patricia Austin) is a scientist-inventor who has built the world’s first computer–an analytical engine.

The Analytical Engine by Jon Steinhagen

She is being counted, sort of, by Eppa Morton (Jon Steinhagen), a middle aged lonely nerdy businessman. Hippolyta decides to use her machine–not to solve  mathematical problems quickly–but to aid her to find the “perfect man.” Her family and Eppa are troubled by this. meanwhile, Lady Ada Lovelace–Lord Byron’s (Denita Linnertz) daughter visits from England to  see the machine.

The Analytical Engine by Jon Steinhagen

The trouble starts for Hippolyta and Eppa when the machine scores a 91% march for Hippolyta with Nathaniel Swade (Eric Lindahl)-a handsome young charismatic bachelor. Hippolyta stand by her science rather than listening to her heart and everyone around her. Eppa listens to Marigold and Virginia as he is determined to win Hippolyta’s heart. When Virginia unfolds her own plan to get both her daughters married, things get wacky.

Steinhagen’s plotting (and his acting) were the strongest elements along with Bob Knuth’s mahogany 19th Century drawing room set.  There was little laughter despite some clever wordplay and some smart comic bits.  Comedy of manners work best when we quickly relate to each character and  here we don’t believe that Lindahl’s character is an arrogant self-centered as played.  Catherine Ferraro plays Marigold much too nasty for us to care about her.  Lady Lovelace’s character could have more involvement and Mary Redmon’s Virginia could tone down a tad. It seemed to me that much of the humor got lost with poor timing and uneven pacing.  Once the cast tightens things and tones down their volume some, The Analytical Engine will emerge as a refreshing new work that will please audiences.  On the whole, Steinhagen’s show is work a look.


Tom Williams

At Circle Theatre, 7300 W. Madison, Forest Park, IL, call 708-771-0700, Tickets $20 – $24, Fridays & Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.

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