Jackie Skiles in “84 Charing Cross Road" at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre -- July 11 through 21.

Thursday, July 11, through Sunday, July 21

Richmond Hill Barn Theatre, 600 Robinson Drive, Geneseo IL

A tender and heartwarming tale of transatlantic friendship, playwright James Roose-Evans' 84 Charing Cross Road enjoys a July 11 through 21 engagement at Geneseo's Richmond Hill Barn Theatre, this moving work lauded by Love London Love Culture as "a celebration of literature and the English language, as well as the nostalgia for the time in which letter writing was a huge part of people’s lives."

Adapted from the book by Helene Hanff, who serves as one of 84 Charing Cross Road's principal characters, the play, like its source material, is based on the true story of the remarkable relationship that developed between a brassy American writer and a gentlemanly English bookseller. The tale begins in the post-war days of the 1940’s, when English books were not only difficult to find in the States, but prohibitively expensive, especially for a poor, struggling playwright living in New York City. A chance encounter with an ad in The Saturday Review prompts the first letter, an endearingly-blunt request with a five-dollar bill enclosed. The friendship that bloomed almost instantly between Miss Helene Hanff in her brownstone and Mr. Frank Doel in his secondhand London bookshop expanded to include fellow bookstore employees. If Helene’s effusive camaraderie is disarming to the Brits, their loveliness of manner and graciousness begets a family-like devotion in her own heart.

Over the course of 20 years, the letters and books fly back and forth across The Pond, from the end of World War II through the swinging '60s, and during that time, a moving account of human friendship and kindness unfolds in 84 Charing Cross Road. With our modern world seeming to have very little time for such things anymore, the play asks, in an age of texts, tweets, and TikTok: How rarely do we feel the quiet thrill of receiving a handwritten personal letter?

Directing 84 Charing Cross Road is Richmond Hill veteran and area-theatre favorite Jennifer Kingry, whose recent productions for the Barn Theatre have included Over the River & Through the Woods, Silent Sky, and Outside Mullingar, and who also directed last May's Sense & Sensibility at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre. Portraying longtime correspondents Helene and Frank are gifted local talents Jackie Skiles (Richmond Hill's Misery) and Reader theatre reviewer Mischa Hooker (the Black Box Theatre's My Brother's Gift), with Kingry's ensemble completed by Elissa Dynes, Susan Hopton, Jackie Patterson, John Simosky, Jim Strauss, Rolan Swanson, and Mimi Sweetser. Kingry also serves as her show's lighting designer, sound designer, and technical operator, and her 84 Charing Cross Road creative team includes: stage manager Terri Nelson; costumer Suzanne Rakestraw; crew person Janet VanderSchaaf; and set builders Jim Driscoll, Jim Skiles, and Mike Skiles.

84 Charing Cross Road runs at Geneseo's Richmond Hill Barn Theatre from July 11 through 21, with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. An audio description performance will be held on Friday, July 12, with the Barn Theatre offering Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) that can be requested at the time that reservations are made. Admission is $12, and more information and reservations are available by calling (309)944-2244 and visiting RHPlayers.com.

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