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Review: The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre)   
The Killer Angels

Adapted by Karen Tarjan  
Based on novel by Michael Shaara
Directed by Matt Miller 
at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood (map)
thru Oct 27  |  tickets: $40   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read review



Captivating adaptation embodies Civil War’s true human struggles


Review: The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre)


Lifeline Theatre presents


The Killer Angels

Review by Katy Walsh 

A textbook tells the facts.  A movie showcases the action.  This play embodies the true human struggle of the Civil War.  It’s like a reenactment, but instead of reliving glorified battlefield maneuvers, it focuses on the men making the historical decisions.  This insider’s perspective shows the conflict, the doubt, and the hope of a nation divided over independence.

Review: The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Shaara chronicled the battles at Gettysburg.  His story recounts the pivotal time period from both the Confederate and Union sides.  The history lesson manifests into a very human tribute under the masterful collaborative efforts of Adaptor Karen Tarjan and Director Matt Miller. Right from the start, the show captivates.  Playing a minstrel narrator, Matt Fletcher (Troubadour) appears on stage and starts to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  He is joined by the talented male ensemble.  Their voices form a strong chorus. The haunting sound is bittersweet.  I already have a lump in my throat at the sense of solidarity. 

At the beginning the men are all dressed uniformly in white shirts.  This scene becomes powerfully symbolic.  Throughout the show, the actors will put on blue or gray coats to play for both sides.  It’s an impressive feat as these guys continually change coats, accents and personalities.  Among the dual roles, Don Bender skillfully goes back and forth from a formidable Lee to a cantankerous Union soldier. The entire ensemble is superb.  The gritty reality of war is apparent in the human vulnerability and uncertainty.  The brooding Tom Hickey (Longstreet) clashing with the boisterous Steve O’Connell (Pickett) makes it real.  The judicious Michael McKeough (Chamberlain), trying to lead while protecting the rascally Zach Livingston (Tom), engages with brotherly tenderness.  

Under Miller’s direction, the scene transitions from North to South are well-paced and smooth.  Miller uses a variety of techniques to keep us riveted to the story. Death is shown by a coat removal.  And multiple fatalities are illustrated in a synchronized march of coats. A battle scene becomes a spectacle at the hands of Designers Julian Pike (lights) and Stephen Ptacek (sound). 

Throughout the show, the charismatic Fletcher appears as our tour guide.  He establishes timing and tone.  In one scene, Fletcher poignantly counts down minutes.  In multiple scenes, he sings and strums upbeat or downtrodden tunes.  His presence is mesmerizing.  

I’m not a Civil War buff.  During the show, I could only vaguely recall some of my American history from my school days.  Still, I was thoroughly engrossed by The Killer Angels.  It’s excellent!  The orchestration and execution of this tale is one of Lifeline’s highest achievements.


Rating: ★★★½



The Killer Angels continues through October 27th at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood (map), with performances Thursdays/Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays 4pm and 8pm, Sundays 4pm.  Tickets are $40, and are available by phone (773-761-4477) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)

Review: The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre)

Photos by Suzanne Plunkett 




Chris Hainsworth (Buford), Don Bender (Lee), Matt Fletcher (Troubadour), Joe Flynn (Fremantle), Tom Hickey (Longstreet), Zach Livingston (Tom), Niall McGinty (Armistead), Michael McKeogh (Chamberlain), Steve O’Connell (Pickett), Sean Sinitski (Ewell), Luke Daigle, Volen Iliev, Eddy Karch, Royen Kent, Dan Maxon (understudies)

behind the scenes

Matt Miller (director), Alan Donahue (scenic design, props), Elise Kauzlaric (dialect coach), Elizabeth Wislar (costume design), Benjamin W. Dawson (production manager), Shelby Glasgow (stage manager), Clare O’Connor (asst. director), Danny Osburn (master electrician), Julian Pike (lighting design), Greg Poljacik (fight choreography), Mike Przygoda (music director), Stephen Ptacek (sound design), Joe Schermoly (technical director), Karen Tarjan (adaptor), Suzanne Plunkett (photos)

Review: The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre)


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