REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Theophilus North

By Matthew BurnettTheophilus North by organic theater

Based on the novel by Thornton Wilder

Produced by Organic Theater

At the Greenhouse Theater, Chicago

Playwright Matthew Burnett exhumes a play from Thornton Wilder’s novel that finds a 30 year old Yale graduate in 1926, who is bored with teaching in New Jersey,  yearning for adventure and world travel. He sets out on the road in a jalopy that breaks down in Newport, Rhode Island. It is the Jazz Age, circa 1926 and Newport is the home of the super-rich Americans.

Theophilus North by organic theater

Theophilus North (Bryan Wakefield), now broke, takes all sorts of odd part-time jobs to survive.  he becomes a tennis instructor, French tutor and private reader – all for the wealthy. Soon, he becomes entangled in the lives and troubles of these wacky rich folks.  North helps a teen develop social graces through acting out while polishing his French. He enthralls a woman to enjoy reading while also becoming a companion to a rich older doctor whose daughter programs him to stay sickly so she can control and get the doctor to die. North infuses the man to think and act ‘well’ thus giving him a new energy and a reinvigorated life purpose. he also saved a rich girl from a bad marriage. North teaches life lessons of tolerances, forgiveness and honesty to all his charges.

Theophilus North by organic theater

We see how the charming and totally honest Theophilus North becomes as both the conscious  and the motivator who affects the lives (for the good) of all who come into contact with him. Theophilus finds adventure in everyday life once he realizes that he doesn’t need to travel to exotic places to find enterprise.

Theophilus North by organic theater

There is a cuteness in this show and Bryan Wakefield has his sweet moments but I was distracted by his flubbing so many lines that it was embarrassing. I also found the pacing uneven as it dragged in places. Many in the cast were much too young to be credible playing older characters.  The whole show played as under rehearsed as many scenes were played with an awkward flubbing of lines and hesitation. Perhaps once the nervous cast settles in, the play will have the attended effect – charm, whimsy and sweetness.  One can hope.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: May 26, 2011

For more info checkout the Theophilus North page on

At the Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, tickets $15 – $30, Thursday thru Saturday at 8 pm, Saturday matinees at 3pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through June 26, 2011

Leave a Reply