Culture Magazine

Review: A Touch of the Poet (The Artistic Home)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat


Elizabeth Argus and Sally Eames - The Artistic Home

A Touch of the Poet

Written by Eugene O’Neill  
Directed by Kathy Scambiatterra
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Nov 6  |  tickets: $28-$32  |  more info

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Artistic Home captivates with timeless themes


Frank Nall and Elizabeth Argus - The Artistic Home


The Artistic Home presents


A Touch of the Poet

Review by Katy Walsh 

Life is a lot of work! Shelter, food, survival are the results of hard labor.  The upper class believes they are above the daily drudgery.  They embrace a lifestyle of privilege.  Their every comfort is someone else’s responsibility.   And if they can afford it, more power to them.  Entitlement comes at a cost.  

Elizabeth Argus and Frank Nall - The Artistic Home
The Artistic Home presents A Touch of the Poet.  The Melodys are Irish transplants to America.  The Mrs. and the daughter run the inn.  The Major preens the countryside on his horse.  As the women scrape to pay the bills, the Major comps drinks and tells war stories.  Nora encourages her husband’s grandiosity.  Sara despises her father’s delusional elitism.  When Sara falls for Simon, her father interferes to broker a marriage deal.  Issues arise when Simon’s family shun the Melodys as the lower class.  What’s better? To believe you’re more virtuous than you really are? Or resigning yourself to society’s definition of who you are?  A Touch of the Poet is a riveting struggle for self identification. 

Playwright Eugene O’Neill penned a thought-provoking play.  O’Neill tackles classism from the outside world and inside the home.  Under the steady hand of Director Kathy Scambiatterra, the drama unfolds organically and amusingly on stage.  There is mounting tension between father and daughter.  But, there are also snippets of comic relief in the boozy buffoonery. The set, designed by David Vogel, is a quaint three-walled wooden room. All the action takes place in this main gathering room. Three doorways lead to the illusion of activity. One goes to the outdoors, one to the upstairs lodging rooms and one to the adjacent saloon. Throughout the show, Scambiatterra has the opening of the tavern door cue up loud bar banter.  The instant pub soundtrack makes me giggle each time.  Scambiatterra effectively uses the real and pretend spaces to build intrigue and mystery.

Frank Nall - Artistic Home, A Touch of the Poet
Kevin D'Ambrosio, Jimmy Ronan and Victor Doylida - Aristic Home

Kevin Gladish and Joe Wiens - The Artistic Home
Joe Wiens and Sally Eames - The Artistic Home

In the lead, Frank Nall (Major Melody) is the perfect combo of arrogance and ignorance.  Looking in the mirror and quoting Byron, hitting on guests, abusing his wife, Nall just nails it!  A smug Nall pontificates lunacy with drunken confidence.  He sporadically erupts going from elegant to wild-eyed. Nall and Elizabeth Argus (Sara) argue over the household control.  For most of the show, their game playing is ongoing defiant angst.  In the final scenes, their reaction to each others’ transformation startles.  Argus is the in-your-face-back-talking daughter.  An energetic adversary, Argus delivers long rants of superiority and bursts of hysterical laughter.  Sally Eames (Nora) is beautifully poignant as the victim of love. Eames is worn-out trying to keep peace between her husband and daughter. An uptight Katherine Swan (Mrs. Hartford) enters the establishment with controlled crazy. She is an unsettling outsider.   The rest of the ensemble is dynamic in colorful rowdiness. Their antics will intoxicate to ‘drive out dark thoughts and rheumatoid.’

A Touch of the Poet captivates with timeless themes. Long after the curtain, I continued to contemplate the characters’ outcomes. Pretending is powerful stuff!


Rating: ★★★


Frank Nall and Sally Eames - The Artistic Home

A Touch of the Poet continues continues through November 6th at Stage 773 Black Box Theatre, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $28-$32, and can be purchased by phone (773-327-5252) or online at More information at (Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, which includes an intermission)

All photos by Tim Knight




Elizabeth Argus, Victor J. Doylida, Frank Nall, Katherine Swan, Sally Eames, Kevin D’Ambrosio, Larry Garner, Kevin Gladish, Jimmy Ronan, Joe Wiens

behind the scenes

Kathy Scambiatterra (director); Lynn Sandberg (costumes); David Vogel (sets); Lindsay Monahan (props); Jess Harpenau (lighting); Adam Smith (sound); Loretta Rode (stage manager); Peter Connor (asst. director), Tim Knight (photos)

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