Lillian | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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In repertory with its riveting revival of Lillian Hellman's classic drama The Children's Hour (reviewed, along with this play, this week in Section 1), TimeLine Theatre presents William Luce's one-woman portrait of the playwright. Janet Ulrich Brooks gives a charismatic, perfectly modulated tour de force performance as the middle-aged Hellman, waiting in a hospital for news about longtime lover Dashiell Hammett, who's dying of cancer. Hellman's reminiscences range from showbiz name-dropping to moving anecdotes about her New Orleans childhood, her turbulent relationship with Hammett (including their shared battle with alcoholism), and her 1952 appearance before Senator Joe McCarthy's red-baiting House Un-American Activities Committee. With her proud bearing, sharply etched features, and piercing intelligence, Brooks completely inhabits Hellman in the prime of life. She's tough and vulnerable, sardonic and rueful--an unfinished woman, as Hellman titled her memoir, and an unforgettable one. a Through 12/11: Sun-Mon 7 PM, TimeLine Theatre Company, Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Baird Hall Theatre, 615 W. Wellington (courtyard entrance), 773-281-8463, $10.

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

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