Summit Conference, TimeLine Theatre Company, at Performance Loft, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago. In Robert David MacDonald's play, the mistresses of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini acknowledge their places on the sidelines as they beguile the time with tea and pastries. But when these are set aside in favor of brandy and cigarettes, the sisterly banter grows increasingly catty and finally downright ugly--with tragic consequences for the earnest young soldier assigned to guard them.
It's no news that women can be as cruel, ruthless, and power-hungry as men, but what keeps our attention riveted on this familiar lesson is Juliet Hart's performance as Eva Braun. The character changes from a fresh-faced young woman enamored of Billie Holiday and Hollywood movies--a motif this production emphasizes--to a virago whose discussions of war strategy are expressed in the first-person singular: "I marched into Poland."
Hart's work is well supported by Pat Tiedemann as the candid Clara Petacci and P.J. Powers as the women's nameless guard. Sensitively directed by Nick Bowling, the play's dramatic action spins out smoothly and seamlessly, from comic "All About Eva" bitchiness to a chillingly accurate analysis of social manipulation. Kevin Hagan's period-perfect decor and Greg Davis's superlatively selected sound design complete the auspicious craftsmanship of this TimeLine Theatre debut.
--Mary Shen Barnidge