(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 11/29.)

Great actors — and Chicago's Kate Fry, to my mind, can compete with the Hollywood best of 'em — are able to show you the gamut of human emotions without ever saying a word. That's pretty much what is happening behind Books on Vernon, where Kimberly Senior, a rising Chicago director, is staging a rather smart and sexy thriller set in Soviet Russia.

Playwright John W. Lowell's "The Letters," a little chamber piece receiving its first Chicago-area production, is not exactly "War and Peace." But this taut two-character play certainly holds one's attention for 80 minutes, partly due to Fry's beguiling performance and partly by keeping you guessing as where it will slither next.

At the start of the action, we meet Anna (Fry), some kind of editorial apparatchik within some unspecified Soviet bureaucracy, whose job seems to be censoring the correspondence of others. Anna has been called into the office of her boss, The Director (Mark L. Montgomery). It's not clear why. Perhaps The Director is offering her a promotion. Perhaps he is abusing his position of authority to make a sexual pass in this young widow's direction. Perhaps this is a political prosecution. Perhaps he is just looking for information, or a confidante, or a mother confessor, or a lover, or a victim.


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