Chicago actress Molly Glynn
Molly Glynn, 46, the redheaded actress with great comic flair and a subterranean touch of mischief — who appeared on countless Chicago stages, and had a recurring role as a doctor on NBC’s “Chicago Fire” — died Saturday morning at NorthShore Evanston Hospital. The actress was bicycling with her husband, fellow Chicago actor Joe Foust, during Friday afternoon’s torrential thunderstorm when she was hit by a falling tree in the north suburban forest preserve of Erickson Woods, near Northfield. She was brought to the hospital in critical condition and never rallied.
“She was a beautiful leading lady with character actress abilities and extraordinary range,” said BJ Jones, artistic director of Northlight Theatre, where Glynn was most recently seen in “Tom Jones” and “The Odd Couple.”
Describing her as “a pillar,” Jones went on to say: “She was everyone’s friend. People gravitated to her and her husband, Joe. She held communities of theater people together. She also worked like a Trojan. ”
That sense of Glynn’s place in the Chicago theater community quickly became obvious Friday night as actors from Chicago, and all over the country, sent prayers and good wishes over Facebook. And almost immediately after her death on Saturday, her friends established The Molly Glynn Memorial Trust, a fund to help her family.
Among Glynn’s many credits were: “Middletown” and “Orange Flower Water” at Steppenwolf Theatre; “The Uneasy Chair” at Writers’ Theatre; “Maple and Vine” at Next Theatre; Kate in the Short Shakes! version of “The Taming of the Shrew” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and work at First Folio, 16th Street Theatre, American Blues Theatre; Seanachai Theatre, Famous Door, Goodman, Remy Bumppo, Apple Tree, the Peninsula Players in Wisconin, and others. In addition to “Chicago Fire,” she appeared in such television series as “Boss” (Starz), and “Early Edition” (CBS).
“Molly had an amazing combination of professionalism and playfulness,” said Jenny Avery, artistic director of Evanston’s Next Theatre, and an actress who co-starred with Glynn in “Maple and Vine,” a quirky satire about 21st century urbanites trying to reinvent 1950s American life. “She had the highest standards, was a very smart analyst of text, and was always completely ‘present’ on stage, but she was joyful and always ready to laugh, too. She raised the level of everyone who was working with her.”
It was back in 1994 that she first came to this critic’s attention when, in a Bailiwick production of “Look Back in Anger,” she was “cool and smooth as silk” in the role of Helena Charles, the upper class actress who took control of her friend’s husband. In 2005, in a Steppenwolf Garage production of “Orange Flower Water,” she was “alternately castrating and devasted” as a betrayed wife. And later that year, in “Permanent Collection,” a Northlight production, she was notably “clipped and corrosive” as a suburban reporter. In “Suburban Motel,” a 2005 Famous Door production, she proved herself “a master at shooting out the killer verbal arrow.”
“She was my favorite comedic actress in town,” said actor Marc Grapey, who worked with her in the 2012 revival of “The Odd Couple” at Northlight, where she played one of the upstairs neighbors, Cecily Pigeon. “She had such skill, such a lightness of touch, such great timing.”
In a Facebook post, Michael Patrick Thornton, the actor and artistic diretor of Gift Theatre recalled: “On the scariest day of my life as an actor, Molly was there, rubbing my shoulder after each pass, whispering ‘Are you okay?,’ and making a perfectly-timed and perfectly-proportionate joke. She ferried me back from pain to laughter with an empathy emblematic of the best of human nature. And that was our first and only show together. Her talent, intelligence, beauty, kindness, humor – my God – if you had just two of her qualities you could call it a life.”
Glynn, who grew up in Hartford, Conn., and attended Tufts University, leaves her husband, Joe Foust, and two teenage sons, Chance and Declan, by a previous marriage. Funeral plans are still to be announced.
Molly Glynn (right) co-starred with Jenny Avery in the 2011 production of “Maple and Vine” at Evanston’s Next Theatre.