Season 34

Keys of the Kingdom

a world premiere
by Penny Penniston
directed by Greg Werstler*

January 10 –February 15, 2015

produced in association with Theater Wit

Previews: 1/10, 1/14and 1/15 @ 8pm
1/11 @ 3pm
: Friday, January 16 @ 8pm
Regular Run:Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm 
Buy Tickets 


As assistant to the celebrity pastor of an evangelical mega church,  Arthur obeys orders, attacks paperwork, and guards against sin.  So Arthur is surprised when the church pastor commissions a mural from Irene Hoff, an atheist New York artist married to another woman. Arthur is even more surprised when the pastor explains that he believes Irene has been chosen by God. But the biggest surprise of all is what happens when Irene shows up and starts to paint. 


Arthur Brian Plocharczyk*
Irene: Kate Black Spence* 
McKenzie Chinn*
Don Bender
Joann: Kathrynne Wolf




Production Team:

Stage Manager: Rebecca Blackmore
Production Manager: Emmaline Keddy-Hector♦
Scenic Designer: Andrew Hildner
Lighting Designer: John Kohn III*
Costume Designer: Brenda Winstead*
Props Designer:  Cassy Schillo
Sound Designer: Adam Smith♦
Technical Director
 John Ofori
Graphic Design: Seam Studios
Dramaturg: Zev Valancy*
Photographer: Johnny Knight     

*Stage Left ensemble member    ♦Stage Left artistic associate

The designation of “Jeff Recommended” is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the opening night judges of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.


“… over the years [Penniston] has been synonymous with intelligent, inquisitive scripts… Evangelicals rarely come across well in new Chicago plays. So it’s to Penniston’s credit that Ed, nicely interpreted by Don Bender, feels like a genuinely open-minded fellow, a man who seems interested in the collision of opposites as a possible space for godly works.” —Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“Penny Penniston’s religious culture-clash comedy treats all of its characters with humanity… thought provoking.” —Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

“Penniston’s writing is accessible and honest, and no one delivers on it more fully than Kate Black-Spence, whose Irene snarls and swears with enjoyable enthusiasm.” —Chloe Riley, Chicago Reader

“As each of these flawed pilgrims find the courage to question their orthodoxy, they also embrace the directive to extend their fellow human beings the gift of forgiveness—a precept transcending sectarian divisions. Penniston never allows her discussion to slide into amen-snorting caricature, nor do director Greg Werstler or his all-star ensemble of actors ever permit their portrayals to stray from respect for their characters’ integrity.” —Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times

“A play of refreshing sincerity and wonderful performances, Stage Left Theatre’s world-premiere production of “Keys of the Kingdom” continues the company’s winning streak…  Penny Penniston’s play (and Stage Left’s terrific cast) refuse to play it coy and cheap with the religious subject matter of the production, and such emotional maturity is a welcome addition to Chicago’s theatrical scene.” —Peter Thomas Ricci, Chicago Theater Review

“The cast, under the direction of Greg Werstler, is strong all around but Plocharzcyk stands out for his tender yet pointy-edged portrayal of Arthur, an addict whose guilt at having received a second chance leaves him crumbling steadily away.” —Alex Huntsberger, Newcity

“a wonderful new play… penned so carefully and compellingly by Penny Penniston and directed with depth and substance by Greg Werstler” —Phillip Potempa, The Times of Northwest Indiana

“an engaging and thought-provoking new work. The characters could easily devolve into mere stereotypes, but Penniston offers much more than that…  ‘Keys of the Kingdom,’ for being so timely in its examination of faith and tolerance, is definitely worth seeing this season.” —Colleen Cottet, Edge Media Network

“Penniston’s premise is interesting.  In particular, I enjoyed the character and performance by the charismatic Don Bender (pastor).  Bender calls himself on vanity issues of a celebrity pastor which makes him very likable.  His convictions are authentically rooted in faith.” —Katy Walsh, The Fourth Walsh