Review: The Night Season (Strawdog Theatre)

| June 5, 2017

Janice O'Neill and John Henry Roberts star as Lily and John in The Night Season, Strawdog Theatre           


The Night Season

Written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz
at Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard (map)
thru June 24  |  tix: $30  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets    


Well-staged production is overly-long, overly maudlin


Justine C. Turner and Michael Reyes star as Judith and Gary in The Night Season, Strawdog Theatre

Strawdog Theatre Company presents
The Night Season

Review by Lauren Whalen

According to its website, the theme of Strawdog Theatre Company’s 29th season is “Lives in exile.” Their season premiere, Distance, featured an elderly Southern woman with dementia, and was followed by Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, a tale of wrongful banishment. Strawdog closes 2016-17 with The Night Season, playwright and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s fable of a dysfunctional Irish family and the English actor who finds himself smack in the middle. The Night Season is marketed as a “skewed romantic comedy,” but even sad, quiet laughs were few and far between. Clocking in at nearly three hours, The Night Season features excellent in-the-round staging by director Elly Green and a couple of fairly interesting relationships, but not much else.

Michaela Petro, Janice O'Neill, Justine C. Turner and Stella Martin star in The Night Season, Strawdog TheatreThe Kennedy family live together in a tiny Irish town – well, except for the mother who left years ago. Three adult sisters, their senile grandmother (Janice O’Neill) and their alcoholic father (Jamie Vann) putter around their cottage without much money or luck. When a film crew comes through to film a biopic of W.B. Yeats in the famous poet’s hometown, the Kennedys offer to put up lead actor John Eastman (John Henry Roberts). Eastman immediately falls into bed with spinster sister Rose (Michaela Petro) and the misadventures begin.

Lenkiewicz’s core concept is a fine one for romantic comedy: dysfunctional family, handsome stranger, lots of misunderstandings, encounters in pubs, and a wacky old woman who likes records and booze. The reality is much more somber: a lot of angst and hand-wringing, allusions to past abuse and neglect, and enough arguing about drinking to drive even the audience members to the nearest bar. None of this drama is a bad thing, but the main issue with The Night Season is Lenkiewicz’s ability (or inability) to know when to say when. There are so many conflicts that some characters (like the youngest Kennedy sister) go largely undeveloped, potentially compelling moments are referred to rather than seen, and late in the second act, it’s clear that Lenkiewicz has written herself into a corner. Not to mention that every Irish stereotype known to humankind is on full, unapologetic display, with little to no nuance apparent.

Michaela Petro and John Henry Roberts star as Rose and John in The Night Season, Strawdog TheatreJanice O'Neill and John Henry Roberts star as Lily and John in The Night Season, Strawdog Theatre Michael Reyes stars as Gary in The Night Season by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Strawdog Theatre

Strawdog’s production contains a few redeeming features: Mike Mroch creates a lovely, realistic set that evokes several different locations. Director Green has chosen in-the-round staging, an excellent choice for the Factory Theater space, and makes strong, sensible choices that make for smooth transitions and slightly lessens the dragging angst of the source material. Apart from O’Neill, who seemingly plays the same character as she did in Distance, only with a different dialect, the cast is talented and cohesive, particularly Roberts and Petro, whose relationship is complex and truthful.

The Night Season is disappointing in many ways. Lenkiewicz’s stock characters, predictable plot and maudlin nature make for an incredibly long afternoon or evening, and the details of the story are difficult to recall even a short time later. If the playwright had inserted more humor (light or dark), characterization and even a little bit of impulsiveness, The Night Season could have been a more authentic, human experience.

Rating: ★★½

The Night Season continues through June 24th at Factory Theater, 1623 W.. Howard (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 4pm.  Tickets are $30, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or through (check for half-price tickets at More info at time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission. Note: contains adult situations and partial nudity)

Michaela Petro and Jamie Vann star as Rose and Patrick in The Night Season, Strawdog Theatre

Photos by Heath Hays




Stella Martin (Maud Kennedy), Janice O’Neill (Lily O’Hanlon), Michaela Petro (Rose Kennedy), Michael Reyes (Gary Malone), John Henry Roberts (John Eastman), Justine C. Turner (Judith Kennedy), Jamie Vann (Patrick Kennedy)

behind the scenes

Elly Green (director), Brittany Dee Bodley (costume design), Heath Hays (sound design, photos), Mike Mroch (set design), Ben Chang (dramaturg), Claire Chrzan (lighting design), Sammi Grant (dialect coach), Holly McCauley (props design), Ellen Willett (produciton manager), Emily Ioppolo (stage manager), Aliza Feder (asst. director), Michael Trudeau (technical director), Caitie Noller (asst. stage manager), Eric Vigo (master electrician)


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Category: 2017 Reviews, Factory Theater, Lauren Emily Whalen, Strawdog Theatre

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