Windy City Playhouse ends its inaugural season with a charming take on love and loss.
In Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical play about second chances at true love, a widower, George (Brian McCaskill), falls into a whirlwind romance with a recently divorced actress, Jennie (Amy Rubenstein). As the two fall deeper in love, they’re forced to confront each other’s pasts before they can move forward. The production is solid, the design team and cast are packed with talent. But in a show focused on a sparkling romance, the chemistry fizzles out.
The true stars of the show are the matchmakers, Jennie’s bold and brash friend Faye (a snappy Amy J. Carle) and George’s pushy brother Leo (a wonderfully sleazy Peter DeFaria). Carle and DeFaria are exquisite. Their comedic timing is flawless, and their scenes together more than win over the audience.
Brian McCaskill brings an extraordinary amount of emotional depth to George. He skillfully ranges from grief to love to ambivalence. But Amy Rubenstein’s Jennie lacks the charm and conviction required to make the love story feel spectacular. She rushes through the play, missing key comedic beats, and at times is even difficult to understand. In a supposed exceptional romance, the temperature is lukewarm at best.
Chapter Two is a well-made play with thoughtful design and great performances by some of Chicago’s finest actors. But Rubenstein's lackluster performance prevents the show from being a great production. It caps an impressive first season for the new company, and Windy City Playhouse’s next chapter is certainly something to look forward to.
Windy City Playhouse. By Neil Simon. Directed by Jessica Thebus. With Brian McCaskill, Amy Rubenstein, Amy J. Carle, Peter DeFaria. Running time: 2hrs 30mins; one intermission.