Saturday December 16th 2017

“Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle” reviewed by Carol Moore

Recommended ***Back in the day, I read and enjoyed all of Georgette Heyer’s historical novels set in Regency England.  In fact, I still have many of them on my shelf including “Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle”.  I was charmed by “Sylvester”, Christina Calvit’s delightful adaptation for Lifeline Theatre, places the ups and downs of a Regency courtship into a game of “Chutes and Ladders”, complete with hazard cards.  It sounds wacky, but it really works!  4 Spotlights

Andrés Enriquez plays the wealthy, arrogant Sylvester, Duke of Salford, a handsome man with prominent eyebrows.  Samantha Newcomb plays Phoebe Marlow, the unmarried daughter of Lord and Lady Marlow.  Phoebe had her London season, but didn’t ‘take’.  The ensemble – Terry Bell, Kate Hildreth, Kristina Loy, Katie McLean Hainsworth, Wesley Scott and Sean Sinitski – play all the other characters.

Sylvester needs to marry, so he consulted his godmother, Lady Ingham, about possible brides.  After she suggested her granddaughter, Phoebe Marlow, he is invited to the Marlow country home.  When he learns he’s the only guest, he suspects a set-up.  Although he doesn’t remember Phoebe, she has bitter memories of him snubbing her, so she tries to avoid him.  Although Phoebe is intelligent and witty, she’s totally tongue-tied in the presence of her abusive stepmother.

Lady Marlow informs Phoebe that Sylvester will be making her an offer.  When she’s ordered to accept the proposal, Phoebe asks her childhood friend, Thomas Orde, to take her to her grandmother in London.  Unaware of Lady Marlow’s orders, Sylvester is furious that Phoebe ran away from him and leaves.  On his way back to London, he happens to find Phoebe and Tom who have had a carriage accident and agrees to take them to London.

When she learns that Sylvester is guardian for his nephew, Edmund, Phoebe is terrified that her secret will come out.  She has written a novel in which her villain, Count Ugolino, who has very prominent eyebrows, is guardian to a nephew.  After the novel is published, gossip runs rampant.

In addition to the Snakes and Ladders set, everything about “Sylvester” is flip and fun.    The women all wear capri pants and tops, adding various button-up tops as dresses.  Sometimes they had to switch jackets, hats or accessories within seconds.  Whoever was playing Edmund – and everyone in the ensemble had to take a turn – had to kneel and wear a silly white sailor hat.  I thought I’d die laughing as Sylvester and Phoebe ride in the park – on giant hopping exercise balls with handles!

Lifeline Theatre, a small (99 seats) venue in Rogers Park, is one of my favorite places.  If you’ve never been there, you’re missing something really special.  They’re unique because every play they do – for adults and for children – is their own literary adaptation.

Over the years, I’ve seen adaptations of many of my favorite books at Lifeline.  They’ve done historical swashbucklers like “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”; or Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”.  If you prefer a more ‘mannered’ play, they’ve done Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”; Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”; Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and “Northanger Abbey”.

They’ve also done adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayres’ Lord Peter Whimsey mysteries, and a brilliant twist on the Sherlock Holmes legend, “Miss Holmes”.  Recently, they’ve done adaptations of Amy Timberlake’s young adult historical, “One Came Home”; and  sci-fi/fantasy stories like “Monstrous Regiment”, set in Terry Pratchett’s Disc World and Austin Grossman’s comic-book style, “Soon I Will Be Invincible”.  I’m soooo excited!  I read recently that one of my all-time favorite books, “Neverwhere”, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy set in London Below, will be reprised in May 2018.

Copies of “Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle” are on sale in the lobby.

“Sylvester” runs through October 29th at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.  Free parking is available at Sullivan High School (6631 N Bosworth Ave, in the lot located on Greenview Ave. just south of North Shore Ave.) with free shuttle service before and after the show. Metered street parking is also available.

Running time is approximately 2 hours with an intermission.

Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm

Saturdays at 4:00 and 8:00 pm

Sundays at 4:00 pm.

Tickets range from $20-$40.

FYI (773) 761-4477 or www.lifelinetheatre.com.

Parking is not easy, but findable.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and clkick at “Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle”

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