‘The Detective’s Wife’ at Writers’ Theatre is a so-so mystery told by a masterful storyteller


Barbara Robertson.

That’s the reason you need to see this one-person play about a recently widowed detective’s wife, named Alice, who sets out to find who killed her husband — and why.

And what a person this play has.

Robertson is a masterful actress who has the uncanny ability to draw you in with a gravely whisper, a sly smirk, a twinkle of the eye that transforms into a tear. You are immediately drawn to her — which is helped by Writers’ incredibly intimate, 52-seat venue.

The play? It’s ok. Keith Huff, who had a major success with A Steady Rain, continues the Chicago cop theme with this dutifully crafted character study, which isn’t so much about the mystery surrounding Alice’s husband’s death as it is about a woman (who happens to have an insatiable hunger for mystery novels — a theme that’s carried out provocatively by set designer Kevin Depinet) grappling with grief.

Sure, the double twist ending happens, as you’d come to expect in any mystery, but it seems somehow wedged in as an afterthought. Also sloppily thought out by Huff is the key moment when Alice finds her voice again. Alice tells us she lost it right after her husband died and turned to note writing to communicate with family and friends. But then…her voice just comes back, without much explanation or fanfare.

However, there are still some magical moments that occur when Alice rediscovers her sense of purpose — even if her voice remains lost.

I guess what I’m trying to say is the play is a little rough around the edges. But Robertson’s performance fills in the gaps: she made me believe in Alice and her passion to solve this crime, so the piece worked. In a less capable performer’s hands, however, Huff’s play might deflate.

“The Detective’s Wife” plays through July 31 at Writers’ Theatre, 664 Vernon Ave. More info here >

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