Love’s Fire: Fresh Numbers by Seven American Playwrights

This show is based on one of those premises that could easily go awry. Seven darlings of the American theater–Eric Bogosian, William Finn, John Guare, Tony Kushner, Marsha Norman, Ntozake Shange, and Wendy Wasserstein–were each given a different Shakespeare sonnet and asked to write a short one-act based on it. The results are much better–much less self-indulgent–than anyone had a right to expect. Love’s Fire owes its success in part to how seriously some of the playwrights took their commissions–Kushner’s play about loss and the fear of loss, based on sonnet 75, is a particular gem–but mostly to the energy, dedication, and commitment of the young cast, directed by Mark Lamos. They put remarkable energy into even the lamest adaptations, like the word salad–I’m sorry, “choreopoem”–Shange fashioned from sonnet 128. Of course, the 25-year-old Acting Company has always prided itself on the quality of its ensembles. Founded by the late John Houseman, it drew its debut ensemble from the first graduating class of the drama division at Juilliard, which included such luminaries as Kevin Kline, William Hurt, and Patti LuPone. More recently the company has endured a number of wrenching changes–moving in 1980 from New York to Washington, D.C., to become the Kennedy Center’s touring arm, then back to New York in 1988 when the Kennedy Center’s funds were cut. The company has been headquartered in New York since 1991, but it exists primarily as a touring company. Which is why you’ll have to drive out to Glen Ellyn to see the show. College of DuPage Arts Center, 22nd and Park, Glen Ellyn, 630-942-4000. Tuesday, March 24, 8 PM. $18. –Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): painting photo by Michael Daniel.