Glencoe, Ill.The best regional drama company in America now has a home worthy of its shows—and is putting on a show worthy of its new home.
Writers Theatre, located in Glencoe, an affluent suburb of Chicago, has just moved into a two-stage complex designed by Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects that is the finest piece of theatrical construction to be built in this country in the past decade. The main stage is housed in a three-quarter-round auditorium with arena-style seating that is similar in layout to its 108-seat predecessor but considerably larger. At the same time, Ms. Gang’s design preserves the up-close-and-personal intimacy that has long been the company’s trademark: You’ll never see a smaller-looking 250-seat theater. The two-story glass-walled lobby-atrium is airy and inviting, and the ultra-modern 36,000-square-foot complex has been integrated so neatly into the Tudor-style neighborhood surrounding it that you’d be forgiven for assuming that it had always been there.
Such a theater deserves to be launched with supreme éclat, and Michael Halberstam, the company’s artistic director, has delivered the goods with a production of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” that is far superior to the ill-fated 2011 Broadway revival. “Arcadia” is, of course, one of the greatest English-language plays of the postwar era, a highbrow whodunit that starts out as a sparkling artificial comedy about extramarital lust, then gradually evolves into a poetic meditation on the philosophico-romantic implications of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Like all of Mr. Stoppard’s plays, it’s intellectually challenging, but Mr. Halberstam’s cast wafts the audience over the knottier stretches, leaving plenty of time along the way for laughter.