The Spitfire Grill: Refuge Theatre Project does it again


Percy sings about Gilead

Refuge Theatre Project does it again. They found an unusual but perfect location to deliver an energetic, spirited musical that blends poignance, secrets, hope, fear, laughter and fun in a fast paced production of The Spitfire Grill in the Windy City Café, 1062 W. Chicago Ave.



In an old travel brochure, idyllic photos, taken in small town Gilead, WI, become a beacon of hope for feisty parolee Percy. Sheriff Joe is the first person she meets with all her defenses raised high. But he sees beyond the defensive Percy and helps her get a job in Hannah's Spitfire Grill. 

Percy soon learns that she is not alone in needing a fresh start. Hannah, The Spitfire Grill, Shelby, Sheriff Joe and Caleb, all are in need of a new start. 

The town's population has been decreasing and Hannah has not had any luck with selling her restaurant for the past 10 years. Shelby decides to work in the grill, despite her husband not liking that idea. The three women bond with each other. 


Hannah, Percy and Shelby enjoy some free time

Percy suggests that Hannah raffles off the restaurant. The entry fee is $100 and an essay about why the entrant wants to win the grill. Effy, the Post Mistress, who takes being the queen town gossip very seriously, wants to know why Hannah is getting several pieces of mail. By the time the bags of mail roll in, Effy can barely control herself. 


Effy, Shelby and Sheriff Joe

To learn the rest of the story, you'll just have to purchase one of the 40 tickets at one of Refuge's performances on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, through May 5. The $30 tickets may be purchased online. It is well worth the time and price. 

Lauren Paris seems to channel Percy…her posture, reaction to physical contact and her slow personality change. Katherine Condit wears the role of Hannah like a comfortable sweater.

Emily Goldberg peels back the fragile layers of Shelby, nurturing her into a more self-confident woman. All three actresses have wonderfully mature singing voices that enhance their portrayals. 


Percy, Sheriff Joe and Caleb have a conversation

Nicole Michelle Haskins commands the stage as Effy. She livens up an already lively "stage." 

Alex Christ gives his all as Sheriff Joe, interacting with all the folks in Gilead. Gerald Richardson plays Caleb, the domineering husband of Shelby who attempts to control her. Matt Patrick plays the stranger. 

Jon Schneidman, the production's Musical Director, is superb as the one-man band, often playing two instruments at a time during the 17 numbers throughout the two-act, 90-minute show. 

Director Christopher Pazdernik staging utilizes the layout and doors of the café, making it feel as though you are in The Spitfire Grill.

The music and book is by James Valcq with lyrics and book by Fred Alley based on the 1996 film by Lee David Zlotoff. which starred Ellen Burstyn and Marcia Gay Harden.

Photos by: Zeke Dolezalek



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