Take a deep breath and hang onto your seat, because once this cast bursts onstage you’re on a nonstop express train racing toward intermission. In the second act, the breakneck pace resumes even faster and more furiously, never letting up until the final curtain. The result is an explosive, hilarious look at old school Chicago journalism, politics and scandal during the 1920’s. This exhilarating production sizzles because of Ben Hecht’s and Charles MacArthur’s autobiographical script, full of period detail and rapid-fire slang. Nick Bowling’s wise direction and in-the-round staging places the audience virtually inside the dingy Criminal Courts press room with the characters, allowing the action to unfold almost in your lap. The result is personal, immediately drawing us into the story rather than forcing us to observe from a distance.
Without giving away too much of the plot, reporters are burning the midnight oil playing poker and waiting to cover the early morning execution of Earl Williams, a revolutionary guilty of killing a policeman. Cocksure ace reporter Hildy Johnson (played with brilliance and panache by PJ Powers) drops by to bid farewell to his fellow newsmen, vowing to get married, leave journalism and settle down to a respectable life in New York. Suddenly comes word that Williams has escaped and everyone’s world turns topsy-turvy.
Besides Powers, Terry Hamilton leads the strong cast as tyrant Walter Burns, the manipulating managing editor who will stop at nothing to both get the exclusive and keep crack reporter Johnson at his paper. Bill McGough’s whiney, brown-nosing Sheriff Hartman and Rob Riley’s corrupt Mayor make a smarmy duo. Chameleon Malcolm Callan easily slips into two diverse roles as mob informant Diamond Louie and modest Mr. Pincus. TimeLine triumphs once again, making history both enjoyable and exciting with this effervescent American classic.