Thursday November 23rd 2017

“The Mandrake”

If you are one that loves laughter! If you are one that loves silliness! If you are a theater buff who enjoys the true escape of  farcical inane comedy! If you answer yes to any of these ( or heaven forbid, all) “The Mandrake”, Machiavelli’s wild and winsome love story as translated by Peter Constantine and directed by Steve Scott, now on stage at A Red Orchid Theatre in Old Town, is the perfect play for you. It is a wild and wacky 90 minutes of playful comedy where the actors use and play off the audience, at every chance, and being the small and intimate venue it is, the audience almost feels that they are a part of the  production. It is fun!

From the start, as our narrator Ligurio ( played to perfection by Lance Baker, who no matter what he does, does it well) explains what the story is about and who the characters are, the laughter begins. He even makes an offer to pour a glass of wine to anyone who doesn’t find a laugh in their heart ( he does this several times)  there were no takers ! The story takes place in Italy. Callimaco ( the rubbery faced Steve Haggard who has great comic timing) has returned back to Italy from his years living in France, to find that his next door neighbor Nicia (deftly handled by Doug Vickers) has married the enchanting Lucrezia ( the adorable Cheyenne Pinson). Callimaco falls in love with her and is willing to die for the opportunity to share her bed, even if only for one night. Meanwhile, their marriage has a problem. Nicia wants an heir ( as under the government rule, should he die, the state will take all of his worldly goods leaving his widow with nothing) Lucrezia doesn’! Her mother , however,Sosrata ( Lucinda Johnston, who also plays a peasant woman) wants her daughter to have that child, for one to be a grandmother and for the other to inherit the state of Nicia with her daughter. How do all these people get what they want?

Enter Ligurio, who is known as a swindler and cheat but upon offering each person what they want, they are in for the ride. A corrupt  Friar ( played to the hilt by the deliciously funny David Chrzanowski) gets into the act along with Callimaco’s man-servant,Siro ( Brian Kavanaugh) and the crazy plan begins. The plan is complicated and  confusing and to tell you all that takes place would spoil the surprizes this play offers. They all go against the grain, the government, the church and humanity in order to get what they want. All , with the exception of Siro, who only does what he is asked to do. These characters all behave as if they had no morals, each having something they want at stake and willing to do almost anything to obtain what it is they desire. While their behaviour is unspeakable, the way that they get there is hysterical comedy, almost Commedia dll’arte but not as physical and without the music.

For those of you who know A Red Orchid located at 1531 N. Wells Street in Old Town, it is a very small theater and yet Scott makes great use of this space on a set by Grant Sabin, which is limited, but works. Jeremy W. Floyd’s costumes and Michael Stanfill’s lighting add to the over all experience and Douglas Kupferman’s props are wonderful. Many of us are unknowledgable about the Dramaturg, a person who works with the script and who seldom gets paid attention to at all. It is the duty of this person to make it all work and make sense and Kelli Marino has done her job. We very seldom think about the stage manager as well. This is the person who must make sure that everyone and every thing is in the right place at the right time; that every light and sound cue works and is on time. While an actor or tech person can rest between cues, the Stage Manager must be prepared for anything throughout the entire show and with the hectics of a zany comedy, be prepared for anything- Ms. S.G. Heller, you were divine!

“The Mandrake” will continue at A Red Orchid throughMay 24th with perofrmnaces on Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m.- I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more perofrmances added as the theater is limited in occupancy, so I suggest you order yours right now.

Tickets are priced at $25-$30 ( it is worth this price just to watch Lance Baker do “his thing” )  and can be purchased by calling 312-943-8722 or online at

FYI-The only reason this is not five stars is because it is not for everyone!       

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