Tuesday May 30th 2017

“Orlando”

Virginia Woolf began to write her “Orlando” , a fictional, but biographical satire of poet  Vita Sackville-West, one of her dear friends. This story, her love letter was written back in the late 1920’s and now , a new adaptation by Sarah Ruhl is onstage at the Court Theatre on the campus of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. Court is known for presenting some of our classic works ,but in a bold and new way, and Ruhl’s adaptation takes this gender bending love story to a new level that meets this criteria. Directed by Jessica Thebus on a stage that for the most part is bare, we get to meet “Orlando” ( a strong and powerful projection of this character by Amy J. Carle, who plays the male to near reality) and his “chorus” made up of  four  quality comic performances by Lawrence Grimm, Kevin Douglas, Adrian Danzig ( most of us are used to him in his “500 Clown” shows, so it is nice to see that he can utilize his comic talents in a true scripted production), and Thomas J. Cox ( who has the agility and ability to create many types of strange characters). The other actress in this production is Erica Elam as Sasha, Orlando’s Russian love interest in both male and female genders. While this is a show about a single character ( handled by Carle with great style) without the four men in the choruus it cannot work and Elam as Sasha the woman that changed Orlando’s course in history, while a small role shows just how important every character is to the whole production.

This production, which is about2 hours in length ( or a bit shorter) takes us on a ride in history as Orlando leaves the 1800’s and enter the 1900’s before our very eyes. During this zany poetic ride, he begins to dislike women and how they treat men and when he wakes form a long sleep, he finds that he is no longer a man, but has become a woman and now must live a different lifestyle from the one he is used to. I would have to classify this production as a sort of combination farce, poetic reading and creative dance comedy. It moves quickly, is well directed, well acted, but for its quality, is not for everyone, in particular younger children. In fact, I would say that even high school students need to be mature for this story. The original novel was not among the best accepted by the literary world, but lets face it, gender-bending was not a topic at a dinner party at that time. The Times have changed, people know more now and some want to learn even more about this topic ,so  Ruhl’s creation as it plays in the intimate Court Theatre, fits the bill.    

As I said earlier, the stage is fairly bare with the exception of dressing tables so that the “chorus” can change identities before our very eyes- and they do!. The bed that becomes a ship ( designed by Collette Pollard) fits the rhythm of Ruhl’s message, and the sound designed by Andre Pluess with just the right touch of music and Jaymi Lee Smith’s lighting along with the costumes by Linda Roethke make the production complete. “Orlando” will continue at The Court located  5535 S. Ellis Avenue ( with plenty of free parking) through April 10th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.-Matinees are Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $40-$60 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-753-4472 or online at www.CourtTheatre.org

Student discounts are available, so contact the box office for info on “rush” tickets as well as student and seniors.

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