Once at Writers
Updated: Mar 5
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
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
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