Theatre Reviews

The Mistress Cycle

Music by Jenny Gieringmistresscyclelogo

Lyrics by Beth Blatt

Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University presents

the Apple Tree Theatre production

A fresh look at an eternal cycle

After a successful, Jeff nominated run at Apple Tree Theatre; The Mistress Cycle is receiving a stunning downtown Chicago premiere at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Don’t worry about the notoriously cavernous Auditorium because the stage has been converted into an intimate space, proper for a chamber musical. Director Kurt John’s production is a textbook example of less is more, putting the focus on storytelling rather than spectacle. The scenic design (skillfully executed by Amy Jackson) is a crimson unit set creating an array of locales. Erin Fast’s simple, but effective costume design consists of 4 dresses and a slacks/shirt set in variations of red. The artfully mercurial lightning design by David Ferguson nicely conveys mood and setting. The Sondheim-esque score (which I came home to see if I could buy on iTunes) was played by a single piano.

The Mistress Cycle is not a traditional book musical, but a song cycle (a series of songs by one composer tied together by a story).  The story jump cuts the lives and loves of five notorious mistresses: Tess Walker, a contemporary Manhattan photographer, Anais Nin, the famed sexual adventurer of the early 20th century, Diane de Poiters, the mistress of King Henri II of 16th Century France; Lulu White, a turn-of-the-century New Orleans bordello Madame; and Ching, a 14-year-old concubine in 12th Century China. A lesser writer would have made these characters one-dimensional victims of selfish men, but this was not the case with The Mistress Cycle. This ensemble of women, played with passion and conviction, allowed me to peek into their souls. I routed for their success, and felt for their demise. However, Tess Walker did not have the complicated story of the others, causing actress Charissa Armon to force her emotion from her performance. On the flipside Christine Bunuam gave such nuance to the character Ching that her song “One In A Line” is truly a highlight of the production.

If you did not catch The Mistress Cycle the first time, I recommend seeing it this time around.

Highly Recommended

Chris Arnold

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University presents Apple Tree Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago IL. or call (800) 982-2787 (ARTS), tickets range in price from $15 for college students to $49 for general seats. Discounts are available for ATRU and ATT subscribers and groups of 10+; call (312) 431-2357 for details. For general information, please visit or Through August 8.

The performance schedule is as follows: July 25, 29, 30, 31 at 7:30. July 26 at 2:00pm. August 1, 4, 5, 8 at 7:30. An additional 2pm performance on Wednesday August 5.

2 thoughts on “The Mistress Cycle

  • CompletelyWrong

    I must say I have to totally disagree with you about a few things. One, the staging was boring and very static. Just because it wasn’t a spectacle does not mean that it has to be a snooze to watch.

    Also in the role of Tess, I thought the actress was the best in the show, she gave the most sincere and real performance. The french gal was chewing the scenery and her performance was better suited for an audience of 2000, not 200.

  • “…causing actress Charissa Armon to force her emotion from her performance.”

    I must respectfully disagree. In a cast of across-the-board unbelievably talented singing-actresses, Ms. Armon simply radiates. I found every moment of hers to be honest, truthful, believable, and not in the least ‘forced.’

    The actresses not mentioned in this questionably brief review–Susan McMonagle, Angela Ingersoll (Jeff-nominated for the original run) and Karen Marie Richardson– are equally wonderful and deserving of praise.

    For fans of musical theatre, this is not to be missed.

Leave a Reply