Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Wild Nights With Emily

By Madeline Olnekwild nights with emily by madeleine olnek

Directed by Meghan Beals McCarthy

Produced by Caffeine Theatre

At the Lincoln Square Arts Center (at Berry Methodist Church)

Quirky comedy speculates on the life (and loves) of Emily Dickinson

Caffeine Theatre follows their acclaimed production of Under Milk Wood with another fine ensemble piece – Wild Nights With Emily by Madeleine Olnek. Emily is a quirky comedy that smartly attempts to solve the mystery of the recluse poet’s life – Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).

wild nights with emily by madeleine olnek

Playwright Olnek has weaved a well crafted comedy that deftly skips around in time and space, switching narratives in an energetic and clever comical exploration of Dickinson’s life, her poetry, and her possible forbidden love.

wild nights with emily by madeleine olnek

Emily Dickinson (Jessica Bennett) was rarely published during her life time and, upon her death, hundreds of her poems were found. She spent years living alone with few visitors.  As people close to her compete to tell their version of her life story, this fun play utilizes cross-dressing, Dickinson poetry and an understanding of Emily’s alleged homosexuality.

Based on some of Emily’s early association with Susan Gilbert (Dana Black) that found the two inseparable for many years, Olnek presents the two in a forbidden lesbian affair. The ensemble work here is spirited and quite funny. Black and Bennett  produced fine stage chemistry as their sensual sparks were quite realistic.  The use of humor didn’t diminish from the stories heart as female-to-female relationships are depicted as romantic despite being forbidden in the 19th Century.

Director Meghan Beals McCarthy keeps the action and the laughs rolling in her 90 minute one-act. Wild Nights With Emily is a pleasing, sweet  and light-hearted romp that gives Emily Dickinson a new image. This show is fun and worth a look.


Tom Williams

At the Lincoln Square Arts Center, 4754 N. Leavitt, Chicago, 312-409-4778, tickets $15 – $20, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through April 11, 2010

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