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  • Rosie Roche

Once at Writers

Updated: Mar 5, 2023



This beautiful evening started with a full cast jam, or pre-show concert with the feel of

something more impulsive. Because I was at college in the 1990s, their rendition of The

Cranberries’ Dream had me deep in nostalgia for the intense and fleeting relationships of our

early 20s. Mixed in with some trad Irish ballads and a ‘Jewish Colin Farrell’ telling us to shut

off our feckin’ phones, we were welcomed to North Dublin.

The press release describes the show as ‘a softly spoken, deeply felt musical about the forces

that compel us to reach out to one another and hold on for dear life.’ Based on the 2007 film

with music by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, the stage show won the Tony for Best

Musical in 2012.

The plainest possible set took us from street corners to inside shops, kitchens to bedrooms,

with just the arrival of a single piece of furniture or musical instrument. This sparsity centered

the performances and the brilliant ensemble interactions to create moments in life that are both

pedestrian and deeply significant. The chance encounter between the two central musicians

changes both of their lives in painful and important ways, communicated with great subtlety by

Dana Saleh Omar and Matt Mueller.

The entire cast are amazing multi-instrumentalists, singers, and group storytellers. I thought the

2 hour 15 minute run time would stretch the audiences’ interest and the interval would break

the intimate storytelling spell that would be hard to recreate, but we were all engaged

throughout. Willing Guy and the Girl to kiss, while at the same time hoping they wouldn’t as

their situations made any decision full of painful fallout. Always wanting to see more of Bethany

Thomas’ Baruska while appreciating the understated, strong ensemble support this star

provided.

The musicianship was stellar, the simple and powerful direction and choreography by Katie

Superman just right. I loved the ache of being witness to the impossibility of some loves to last

longer than their moment, despite the amazing potential those relationships have, and how

deeply they are felt. The significant relationships in life are not the always the longest lastings.

This truth was beautifully told and shown. It was a joy and a privilege to watch such

accomplished artists invite us in to witness such a time and to be transported back to my

youth where every relationship felt so significant and became indelible.

Highly recommended. The run has already been extended into April. Get your tickets while you

can.

Through April 2 at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, IL 60022 For Tickets and Information go to https://www.writerstheatre.org/once


For more reviews go to www.TheatreInChicago.com


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