Matching Wits | The Reader's Guide Feature | Chicago Reader

Matching Wits 

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At Wit's End comes home this week. The musical, inspired by the literary and theatrical minds who met regularly for lunch at New York's Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s, was crafted in Chicago over a six-year period by lyricist Cheri Coons and composer Michael Duff. Northlight Theatre artistic director B.J. Jones committed to staging it right after the first public reading, in 2001, but was scheduling shows two years in advance. In the meantime it was snapped up by Florida Stage, which heard about it from Jones and had a hole to fill in its season. That production won two regional prizes, including one for best new work. Now Jones is mounting his version, directed by Joe Leonardo, which Coons says will benefit from a little tweaking and two new songs. Hung on the love triangle that built the New Yorker magazine, the play has a rack of fabulous characters to work with--Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Edna Ferber, plus New Yorker founder Harold Ross, his wife and partner Jane Grant, and her admirer, New York Times critic Alexander Woollcott. This is rich material that demands writing up to the standards set by the real people. Coons and Duff get to prove whether they have the wit for it when previews begin May 14; the play runs through June 22. Performances are 7:30 on Tuesday; 8 Wednesday through Friday; 3 and 8 on Saturday; and 2:30 and 7 on Sunday. (There's no Saturday matinee during previews.) Preview tickets range from $32 to $38; tickets for the regular run, which starts May 21, run $34 to $46 ($50 for opening night). Northlight is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie; call 847-673-6300 for tickets and information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Susan Green.

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