One of my favorite small theater companies is First Folio Theatre, that charming company that does its productions at The Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook- both indoors ( at the Estate) and outdoors ( on the luscious grounds, in the Summer). For 18 years, this company has worked to bring quality work top its stages, from Shakespear to classical farce. Over the years, they have selected works that fit their stage and of greater importance, the audience attending this intimate setting.
Farcical shows are not as easy as they appear to be. It takes perfect comical timing, solid direction, often a ton of slamming doors and for many years, Dale Benson, to truly pull it off. Tackling “Rough Crossing” written by Tom Stoppard, and directed by Alison C. Vesely, was what I might call, a rough crossing for this company. It is called a “musical”, but I would prefer to call it a few comical moments with some music ( Christopher Kriz has composed three jazz numbers that might make the trip worthwhile), but i would have to say the script is just a little “stale” for todays’ brighter audiences.
Let’s face it, a story about the 1930’s depicting the story of two playwrights attempting to finish their latest musical, who have to deal with a jealous composer, the screen star that he is in love with, a co-star who is far from talented and a ship steward who is about as inept as one can get( but, as it turns out, Dvornicek, AKA Murphy, played to perfection by Kevin McKillip, is probably the closest to reaching a “farcical character”, but alas, he cannot save the weakish script.
There are some solid performances, by actors who try to save the day and in many cases, do get the audience laughing ( but often “forced”). Christian Gray, the lovely Gail Rastorfer, David Rice Rene Ruelas and Alex Weisman, who truly seems out of place in this so-called comic effort.There are some funny scenes, but when one goes to view a “farce” one expects to laugh more than a few times during a two hour production. Maybe this could be cut down to 90 minutes and it would be more enjoyable. The ensemble members Kat Evans, Mark Hespen, Scott Sawa and Andrew Taylor Swanson deserve special recognition for a superbly choreographed set change between the first and second scenes. And the set, the interior, two levels of a cruise ship ( designed by Angela Weber Miller) is truly something to see- a work of art, indeed.
The technical portion of the show was a little less that I have grown to expect at First Folio, with the lighting (Ethan Vail) being a bit dark and the costumes ( Rachel Lambert) so-so, but I will say the props (Cassy Shillo) were extraordinary and always right on! Stoppard has written some truly marvelous works and many, just in seeing his name associated with a play, will go to see it. This is not one of those. Rather, this is one to see just for the set, the jazz, the love of theater and the wonderful ride and facility at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook.
“Rough Crossing” will continue through March 2nd with performances as follows:
Wednesdays,Thursdays,Fridays,Saturdays and Sundays at Mayslake Peabody Estates located at 1717 West 31st Street ( just west of Rte 83 and 31st street) with tickets starting at $30 to a high of $37 with special discounts for seniors and students and lots of free parking. FYI- they do plow the snow so it is easy to navigate in the lot and along he sidewalk to enter the wonderful venue. The building itself is worth the trip to OakBrook. For more details or to order your tickets call 630-986-8067 or visit www.firstfolio.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Rough Crossing”