The Glass House, Northlight Theatre, at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Ellen Gould, best known as the author of the play Bubbe Meises, is a woman of many talents. Blessed with a sweet, charming singing voice, she's also a skillful songwriter, suggesting Richard Rodgers infused with a klezmer flavor. But in The Glass House, her new two-character musical about a fictional 1938 encounter between German cabaret singer Isa Kremer and a mysterious Hasidic Jew, Gould reveals her liabilities as an actress and playwright.
Perhaps in an intimate storefront theater it would have been easier to overlook Gould's flimsy stage presence and script, which despite some lovely turns of phrase remains an idea in search of a plot. But in the cavernous surroundings of Northlight's cheerless school-auditoriumesque facility, The Glass House appears woefully underdeveloped and Gould ill suited to carry it: like an actress in an early dress rehearsal, she seems to be conserving her energy.
As the unnamed ultra-orthodox Jew, the smooth-voiced, exceedingly professional David Studwell fares better. But he's unable to make the passion between the devout Hasid and the secular Kremer credible. Gould begins to explore some good ideas here, such as the spiritual passion Kremer experiences through song and the Hasid through prayer. But they deserve better than this tentative script and performance.