The Pitmen Painters | Theater Wit | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

The Pitmen Painters The Short List (Theater) Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 18 2011

Lee Hall hammers at the same working-class-vs.-creative-class themes he explored in Billy Elliot, but this eloquent, decidedly didactic play about the Ashington Group—English coal miners who took up painting and became art-world darlings in the 1930s--doesn't quite soar the same way. The camaraderie and clowning of the early ensemble scenes fade away in the second act in favor of predictable two-person talking-point sessions exploring the role of a wealthy patroness who challenges the men's class identity. Still, B.J. Jones's intimate staging and the stellar ensemble (particularly Dan Waller as Oliver, the one member of the group who coulda been a contender) bring out the best in the material with warmhearted charm. --Kerry Reid

Price: $32-$42

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