NIEDECKER, Writers’ Theatre Chicago. Ironically, recognition for the successful writer often curtails the solitude necessary to the craft. Knowing this and fearing that her rural Wisconsin neighbors might look strangely on a poet in their midst, Lorine Niedecker guarded her privacy zealously. Neither the staff at the Fort Atkinson hospital where she worked as a janitor nor the professors at the university ten miles away suspected an artist lived right next door until her sudden death in 1970.

Yet Kristine Thatcher has taken the sparse biographical details of her reclusive subject and fashioned a portrait that captures Niedecker’s life in the world–represented by an earthy husband, a proper cousin, and an idealistic pupil. Her inner life emerges in the startling observations that belie the physical stasis of the creative process; few things are more visually boring than a writer at work, but Thatcher’s Niedecker, seated at her desk, all but shimmers with vigor and vision. Thatcher is ably supported by Robert Scogin, Marilyn Campbell, and Jenny Friedmann as the three companions whose loyalty is repeatedly frustrated by Niedecker’s personal and spiritual independence. –Mary Shen Barnidge