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Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)   
Our Country’s Good

Written by Timberlake Wertenbaker
Directed by Roger Smart 
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Feb 22  |  tickets: $30   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read review



A testament to the persuasive power of a flawless ensemble


Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)


Shattered Globe Theatre presents


Our Country’s Good

Review by Lawrence Bommer

This richly textured drama works on many levels: Timberlake Wertenbaker’s 1988 triumph, a six-time Award-nominated and Olivier winning historical drama, depicts a marvelous transformation. And it may well have occurred, inspired by Australia’s first dramatic presentation, a play put on by prisoners. Effective both retroactively and 2014, Wertenbaker’s sardonic exposé of the sexual stereotypes that uphold unearned male privilege is paralleled, both in cause and effect, by the class distinctions that the British military occupiers of New South Wales, originally a penal colony, inflicted on both the convicts and the Aborigines they exploited.

Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)
A lot of issues surge across this busy stage, each fleshed out as only theater can. Blessed with wizard casting, but a bit burdened by the plethora of diverse accents, Roger Smart’s intelligent revival for Shattered Globe Theatre keeps the plates spinning: None crash. Switching from high and low and sometimes male to female, his versatile dozen actors evoke a larger world where cruelty is the only culture—until a play leads the way…

It’s nothing if not theatrically based, both in inspiration and content: Based on Thomas Keneally’s “The Playmaker,” Our Country’s Good references an even earlier work where art transforms life by awakening imaginations gone dormant. Performed by prisoners in the new penal colony in 1789, “The Recruiting Officer,” a diverting Restoration comedy by George Farquhar, becomes an opportunity for a second life in a “new” continent. Directed by the idealistic Lt. Clark (Stephen Peebles) and supported by the Rousseau-loving commandant (Drew Schad), who refuses to believe that humans are born bad, the rehearsal scenes of “The Recruiting Officer” display, not just the “fish out of water” complications of criminals turned into thespians, but the power of a play to offer alternatives, if not second chances, to life’s losers even in dreadful exile.

Perversely, Old Worlds sins manage to flourish on new soil. So the last thing that the military overseers intended is for this supposedly innocuous comedy to awaken or enlighten these former thieves, pickpockets, whores, rapists, and philanderers to the natural rights so assiduously denied them. (As one writes, “We left our country / For our country’s good.”) Like the mental patients in the Charenton asylum in Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade, this presumably therapeutic act of art triggers a revolt. Restoration indeed. Far from the first folly on the “fatal shore,” the crude revival creates its own “leveling effect,” as it pays tribute to the power of life to imitate art. The “actors” discover unexpected parallels between their dead-end careers and the amorous adventures of two Restoration rakes and their wary conquests. The women, in particular, realize that there’s a world out there where souls matter as much as bodies.

Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)

Rich performances abound—Ben Werling as both a born-again ham actor and a ruthless persecutor of the inmates, Eileen Niccolai as a victim too paralyzed to protest her innocence, and, in his own trifecta, Arch Harmon as both a British snob, an Aboriginal in denial of this invasion and the enigmatic “Black Caesar.”

Though sometimes too accurate in the accents to be understood, Smart’s staging takes power from a persuasive ensemble: All but carved from the script, their characters mirror every reaction to art, then and now. At every turn the parallels to modern torture and rehabilitation lift a history play from the past to tomorrow.


Rating: ★★★★



Our Country’s Good continues through February 22nd at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $30, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)

Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)
Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)
Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)




Arch Harmon (Capt. Tench, Aboriginal Australian, Black Caesar), Christina Gorman (2nd Lt. William Faddy, Dabby Bryant), Eileen Niccolai (Captain David Collins, Liz Morden), Steve Peebles (Lt. Ralph Clark), Drew Schad (Capt. Arthur Phillip, Harry Brewer), Megan Skord-Campbell (Capt. Jemmy Campbell, Meg Long), Kevin Viol (Lt. Will Dawes, Robert Sideway), Ben Werling (Major Robbie Ross, Josh Arscott), Abbey Smith (Mary Brenha), Mary Franke (Reverend Johnson, Duckling Smith), Addison Heimann (Lt. George Johnston, Ketch Freeman), Dillon Kelleher (John Wisehammer).

behind the scenes

Roger Smart (scenic design), Sarah Jo White (costume design), Michael McNamara (lighting design), Connor Murray (sound designer), Jeton Murtishi (composer), Vivian Knouse (props design), Susan Gosdick (dialect coach), Judy Anderson (production manager), Amanda Rozmiarek (technical director), Jeffrey Clark Stokes (stage manager), Rosie Chevalier (producer), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Review: Our Country’s Good (Shattered Globe Theatre)


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