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Review: The Gray Girl (Factory Theater)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: The Gray Girl (Factory Theater)   
The  Gray Girl 

Written by Colin Milroy 
Directed by Matt Engle
at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map)
thru Dec 17  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info

Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



The mystery of the gray girl: A crime better left unsolved


Review: The Gray Girl (Factory Theater)


Factory Theater presents


The Gray Girl

Review by Danielle Stack

The year is 1950 and it’s time again for a haunting tale about the consequences of seeking revenge from a loved one’s murder. Various movies, television shows and theaters have overdone this plot over several decades to the point where the audience might guess the ending. The Factory Theater’s production of their original play, The Gray Girl, is no exception to this.

Focusing on Nick Brennan’s quest to avenge his wife’s death and the toll that it takes on his life, The Gray Girls opens with a flashback to the happiest moment of Brennan’s life, the day he proposed to his beloved wife. From there it travels a few years later to the office of Brennan’s employer, the Chicago American newspaper, where we learn that Brennan and his partner Sally Doyle are missing. The play continues to jump back and forth (a little too often) between the past and present. We learn that corrupt politician Morse, who has a fetish for call girls, has murdered Brennan’s wife as well as the mother of Lana, who is also out for revenge on Morse. What ultimately happens is accompanied with a deathly price for the parties involved.

The plot seems straightforward enough, however playwright Colin Milroy’s focus is more on portraying the 1950’s horror genre than on developing the story and characters. Throughout the play, the character’s actions lack motivation. In addition, at times it is not clear the importance (or names) of a few of the male characters. And once Gray Girl is over, the connections between of Lana, Morse, Doyle and Brennan are still lost on the audience. Milroy’s play certainly captures the genre and clever language, but it in doing so the overall focus of the show is muddied.

As for the production elements of the show, Joseph Riley’s set  – though appearing too simplistic at first glance – is just what the production needs. Angie Wendelberger brings the period to life through her delightful costumes, especially the dresses worn by the female ensemble. Paul Foster’s lighting design is also exemplary. One of the great ways this production creates suspense is through Foster’s clever design and the way that the actors utilize different light sources, including lighters and flashlights. Mike Tutaj’s sound design, however, is distractingly loud and overdone. The music fits the time period perfectly, though the hesitant insertions of several suspenseful noises take us out of the story.

Matt Engle directs his cast in the stylized acting of the 1950’s. The ensemble portray the genre with ease save for Colin Milroy as the protagonist of the show, Nick Brennan. Milroy’s performance is flat – during scenes where he is required to show anger, fear or sadness he tends to yell his lines, adding to the overwhelming volume of the show. The female ensemble of the show are charming, conveying the style of 1950’s with ease. Katherine Schwartz offers a quite chilling performance as the ghost of Lana, and Jill Oliver gives a determined and focused portrayal of reporter Sally Doyle. Paulette Hicks is also delightfully awkward as nerdy secretary Patricia.  The two standout performances from the men are Sam Hubbard as the geeky Carl and Shannon Parr as the corrupt politician Morse.

Overall, Factory Theater’s production of The Gray Girl is underwhelming. With the culmination of an unfocused play, overwhelming volume, mediocre fight choreography and unmotivated characters, the play’s mystery is better left unsolved.


Rating: ★½



The Gray Girl continues through December 17th at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map), with performances Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $20 on Friday & Saturdays and $15 on Sundays, and can be purchased by phone (866-811-4111) or online at More information at (Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission)

All photos by Paul Metreyeon



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