WINDY CITY TIMES
by Mary Shen Barnidge
This article shared 3079 times since Wed Apr 30, 2014
Playwright: adapted by Michael Bloom from the novel by Jane Austen. At: Dead Writers Theatre Collective at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-327-5252; www.deadwriters.net; $40. Runs through: May 25
Oh, who doesn't love a Regency romance? Where else can we vicariously share in the idly luxurious lifestyles of families whose lineage confers upon them privileges associated with unlimited credit and armies of servants? Whatever our own social statuswhich an actual country household circa 1816 would likely restrict us to its farthest bordersthe Dead Writers Theatre Collective knows how eagerly we yankees abandon our hard-won democratic ideals to embrace an elitist fantasy of endless tea parties, prepared and cleaned up after by silent underlings.
The novels of Jane Austen established the prototype for this literary genre: Our heroine is Miss Emma Woodhouse, a young woman of forthright opinionsrare in an age where females were presumed to be creatures of pliable temperamentwith nothing to occupy her talents but the care of her doting father and the minding of her neighbors' business. Having successfully ( so she believes ) orchestrated a happy marriage between her former governess and a prosperous local tradesman, she proceeds to match up her companions with the confident alacrity often displayed by the sheltered offspring of indulgent parents. When real life evidences the error of her perceptions, however, she is forced to question her expertise at marital guidance, even to reassessing her own feelings toward the childhood comrade whose candor she values as she would the council of anum, older brother.
Michael Bloom's page-to-stage adaptation wisely rejects any temptation to impose modern metaphors upon his source material, but instead adheres faithfully to period sensibilities. Jim Schneider's direction likewise endows the intrigue-driven action with a breeziness that may undermine Emma's few forays into serious introspection, but reinforces the reckless imperative characterizing a universe ruled by Cupid's swift-flying arrows.
Anyway, we don't ask for densely textured character studies from plays of this kind, but only that actors keep up the breathless pace reflecting a morality governed by impulse. Assisting the agile-footed ensemble are Kendra Kargenian's fine-tuned dialect instruction, Moon Jung Kim's origami-based fold-out scenic design and Patti Roeder's airily enticing wardrobe. Jeffrey Levin's spritely musical score enhances the obligatory ballroom scenes' reels, rounds and cotillions, expertly choreographed by Mady Newfield and Tammy Ravitts Bretscher. ( Those planning summer weddings should also note Bob Douglas' playbill credit for his floral arrangements. ) Even a capricious light board that chose opening night to malfunction could not diminish the enthusiasm generated by giddy lovers in the first flush of mating season.
This article shared 3079 times since Wed Apr 30, 2014
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