And a Nightingale Sang | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

And a Nightingale Sang 

And a Nightingale Sang, Shattered Globe Theatre.

Survival becomes a story in itself during wartime, which gives this affectionate period play by the late British playwright C.P. Taylor a built-in urgency. Originally produced here by Steppenwolf Theatre with a splendid Joan Allen as the narrator-daughter Helen, And a Nightingale Sang is a fond recollection of a Catholic family living precariously in Newcastle during World War II, contending with blackouts, ration books, and air raids. The clan consists of a fussbudget mother, her piano-playing husband, and their two daughters--Joyce, free-spirited and scared of being tied down to her randy soldier boyfriend, and Helen, crippled, self-effacing, all-suffering, and abruptly plunged into a passion for a soldier who happens to have a wife and child.

Though weak on the Tyneside accents and heavy-handed in the screwball scenes, Susan Leigh's staging delivers intact Taylor's emotional payoffs, thanks to Eileen Niccolai, whose Helen is unpretentious and often scathingly honest, and Joe Forbrich, who's decent and confused as her borrowed lover. Linda Reiter's stereotypical worrywart wife is a little too frazzled but a neat contrast to Doug McDade's laid-back, unabashedly leftist husband. As the teasing sister and her awkward soldier beau, Rebecca Jordan and Brian Pudil convey the perplexities of lovers in wartime, and Shelton Key, a 74-year-old actor who was in England during the blitz, doggedly delivers the grandpa.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin-Jennifer Girard Studios.

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