Timothy Findley's "Elizabeth Rex" imagines the Virgin Queen the night before the beheading of the Earl of Essex, for whom she had a special but, alas, ill-timed and professionally incompatible, affection. It's 1601 and our pale-faced madam is hanging out with the actors of the Lord Chamberlain¿s Men. The house scribe, William Shakespeare, is played in Barbara Gaines' lively and happily theatrical production by Kevin Gudahl. The play, which focuses on Queen Elizabeth's relationship with a dying actor, loses some steam in Act Two, but one warms throughout to the play's intelligence, passion and moral determination. The fine Canadian actress Diane D'Aquila is a formidable Queen.
Through Jan. 22 Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave.; $44-$75 at 312-595-5600 and chicagoshakes.com
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