Chicago Theatre Review
Camelot’s Queen Mother
Rose – Greenhouse Theatre Center
Talented, multi-Jeff Award-winning Chicago actress Linda Reiter earned her latest, well-deserved accolade this past Fall by playing Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Portraying some of history’s strongest and most influential women isn’t new to this actress. She’s astounded audiences as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Todd Lincoln and even as the Mother of Jesus in “The Testament of Mary.” Ms. Reiter returns to the Greenhouse Theater Center this Winter to recreate her magnificent solo performance in Laurence Leamer’s acclaimed drama. Lovingly guided once again by gifted Chicago director Steve Scott, this intimate portrait of Camelot’s queen mother is a not-to-be-missed tour de force performance.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was a great lady, a deeply devout Catholic, a Bostonian socialite and philanthropist who lived to be 104 years old. Through a series of personal interviews with Mrs. Kennedy, Leamer created this eye-opening solo performance piece that allows Rose to tell her story in her own words. For Baby Boomers, much of what Rose relates to the unseen writer of her biography will be enlightening but won’t come as big news. Younger audiences, however, may be in awe to learn that Mrs. Kennedy not only lived through more than a century of earthshaking historical events, but gave birth to nine children, many of whom helped shaped America. They include President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy.
Rose was the daughter of Boston Mayor John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald. She attended college in Manhattan, toured Europe with her father and even had an audience with the Pope. In 1914 Rose married Joseph Patrick Kennedy against her father’s wishes. They lived for a time in Brookline, MA, but eventually moved to a 15-room vacation home at Hyannis Port on Cape Cod. This is where Leamer’s play is set. It’s the home in which Rose suffered through her husband’s rampant infidelity and raised their children; it’s also where Rose suffered a stroke, contracted pneumonia and left the world in 1995.
Throughout the 90-minute performance, Rose shares her thoughts and personal history. Whether lovingly flipping through photo albums or proffering fond memories inspired by the many framed portraits that cover every table in the room, Rose becomes a master storyteller for her unseen biographer. Throughout the play Rose keeps watch for her son Teddy, answering the telephone, hoping for some news as to his whereabouts. She speaks with her daughters and daughter-in-law Jackie before finally hearing from her son.
Audiences will come away from the evening’s performance with a new appreciation for this wonderful woman. It’s a portrait of a strong, admirable woman who held an important place in American history. Rose continually maintains that, in spite of everything, she was completely fulfilled by her role as a wife, mother and homemaker. In Steve Scott’s thoughtfully-directed production, especially due to Linda Reiter’s inspiring performance, audiences will remember Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy as a great lady who placed family above all else.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented January 12-March 11 by the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available at the box office, by calling 773-404-7336 or by going to www.greenhousetheater.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.