Review: ShawChicago’s “Votes for Women!”

We’ve come a long way, baby


ShawChicago presents:

Votes for Women!

by Elizabeth Robins
directed by Robert Scogin
thru November 9, 2009 (buy tickets)

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Inadequate health care coverage, conservatives versus liberals, rumors of a politician’s past sexual indiscretion? No, Votes for Women! isn’t the story of Hillary Clinton’s rise to power. In fact, actress and playwright Elizabeth Robins wrote the work over a hundred years ago. Set in England in 1907, Votes for Women is about a naïve heiress introduced to the Suffragettes’ movement by the former lover of her political fiancé. ShawChicago’s production is a 100-year anniversary replication of Votes for Women! being introduced to Chicago.

Before the show even commences, the lack of scenery on stage is a bit perplexing. Chairs, music stands, and bottles of water suggest a reading – not a play.

Initially, the authenticity to the time period is appreciated. Later, after a series of monologues, a craving for visual stimulation and modern-day editing defeat any nostalgic notions. Distractive music and pounding offstage vie for attention during particularly long lectures. The stellar cast tries to overcome the lack of action with facial expressions and limited gesturing. Joseph Bowen (narrator/various voices) is fascinating playing characters with a variety of accents. In Act II, the juxtaposition between Suffragette’s speeches was intriguing. Melinda Moonahan (Working Woman) uses a lower class dialect bluntness to rally support. Lydia Berger (Ernestine Blunt) addresses with an educated and amplified oration. And Suzanne Lang (Vida Levering) delivers a personal and passionate plea. As the heiress, Barbara Zahora’s (Jean Dunbarton) love struck innocence engages compassion for the “poor little rich girl.”

Ironically, throughout the performance, one is torn between “we’ve come a long way baby” and “we got the vote, so what?” Yes, women can vote, own property, and run for President. On the other hand, the harsh and superior judgment of single mothers, welfare recipients and average-looking women continues to be prevalent. Regardless, however, Votes for Women is an important illustration of the evolution of thought regarding women’s rights. Hopefully by the 200th-anniversary production, women will have secured equality to men and each other.


Rating: ««



Pre-show, we check out the Phi Lounge at the Indigo Hotel (1244 n. Dearborn). It’s a boutique hotel with an Ikea feel and a vanilla scent. Although the Indigo has been around for four years, they still haven’t gotten around to producing a wine or drink list according to our chatty, but friendly, bartenderess. We split the Tuscan pizzaretta and chicken Caesar salad. Ample portions supply us with a meal for the future. We voted for Hotel Indigo because it was adjacent to our Self Park (1250 N. Dearborn) which provides discounted parking for the Ruth Page Theater goers. Remember to get your ticket validated at the theatre! The difference in price is $10 vs $36. The Gold Coast got its name for a reason.

Because our 4-hour parking allotment is expiring, we exit the Gold Coast and drive north for a post show beverage. Wanting to support working women, we stop at Jacqueline’s (3420 N. Broadway) but are unable to secure the attention of the texting bartender. Next, we try Wang’s (3317 N. Broadway) but a “cash only” sign deters us from staying. We cross the street to Ping Pong (3322 N. Broadway) and empower our bartenderess in her timid endeavor to cut the pear slices for our martinis. Our quest for the perfect post-show libation, not quite the force feeding of imprisoned Suffragettes, but in our own little way a show of support for the working class woman.

2 Responses

  1. […] For the rest of the review, click on Chicago Theater Blog […]

  2. […] the rest of the review, click on Chicago Theater Blog Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Request for TheatreProduct review: Philips baby […]

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