Halloween Season is here; terror and gruesomeness abound. What an ideal time to visit Mays-Lake Peabody Tudor Revival Mansion 1717 West 31st Street (31st St. & Rt. 83) in Oakbrook, Illinois. This 123 seat theater is the perfect intimate setting for the 25th season, of First Folio Actor’s Equity Theater Company, a seven-time Joseph Jefferson Award winner. They are currently performing award-winning playwright Joseph Zettlemaier’s, imagined sequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Zettelmaier tells a thrilling tale transporting us to Salenegg Castle in Geneva, Switzerland; a century after Dr. Frankenstein’s monster was created.
During excavations of the castle, brilliant botanist and scientist (Maria Van Moos), played by actress Courtney Abbott whose dialogue delivery is most impressive makes a shocking discovery. We are introduced to her finding the freaky, but beautiful (Justine) portrayed by Heather Chrisler. Chrisler’s stage presence and physicality are stirring. Justine is in the beginning, a bit wildly awkward and fearful. She has little memory about who she really is. We immediately become engaged in this story that is revealed as the friendship between the women through a shared love of scientific learning from books grows. Janos Vystario (Peter Sipla) is cast as an impresario of Menagerie of the Macabre( a freak show) touring through Europe and stopping by to see his old friend Maria Moos. He is charming, but an evil character who ultimately exploits Justine.
Kudos to Hayley Rice, the director of the Jigsaw Bride, who sets the clear correct emotional temperature for this play. The stage actors give intense emotional performances contrasted with witty repartee, laugh-out-loud humor, and campy comedy. The treat to this opening night was the twists and turns in this dramatic compelling tale dealing with moral dilemmas, philosophical debates over science versus nature, betrayals, and treachery, and the trick was the welcomed comedy contrasting the darkness of this narrative.
The rich costuming is credited to Rachel Lambert. Scenic Designer Angela Weber Miller sets a credible canvas for the actors, while Christopher Kriz’s original music and sound set the eerie mood and cue our emotional responses.
I suggest you arrive early enough to take a tour of Mays-Lake Peabody Estate now owned by the Dupage Forest Preserve. Francis Stuyvesant Peabody, a national leader in the Democratic Political Party and captain in the coal industry commissioned famed Chicago architect, Benjamin Marshall, to build this magnificent summer retreat in 1919. It was named after his first wife and daughter, Mays-Lake Peabody Estate. Unfortunately, a year after its completion in 1921 Peabody died of a heart attack during a fox hunt on the property.
The 840-acre property was later sold to the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart order of Friars Minor in 1926. Their chapel is now the First Folio Great Hall Theater. Unlimited Free parking is available. Running time is 2 hours with one intermission. Proof of vaccination is required and you must mask up for entrance and the performance. Children under 12 years old, patrons with a medical condition, or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test (within 72 hours prior to the performance) or a rapid Antigentest (the day of the performance). Ticket prices are Wednesday-Thursdays $49.00 (Seniors $44.00) Fridays-Sundays $59.00 (Seniors $54.00) (Full-time students age 22 and below $20.00). Discounts are available through Season Subscription Purchases.
Photos: Courtesy of Tom McGrath