Or, The Wicked Uncle
Total Rating: 
October 29, 2017
Lifeline Theater
Theater Type: 
Lifeline Theater
Theater Address: 
6912 North Glenwood Avenue
Christina Calvit adapting Georgette Heyer novel

Regency Romances, preferably adapted for the stage by Christina Calvit, never fail to delight Lifeline audiences, who could happily revel in ladies wearing long dresses and gentlemen clad in tight breeches for as many seasons as Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer et al. are able to provide material. Every so often, however, the company (celebrating its 35th anniversary) departs from conventional historical accuracy to impose an innovative visual metaphor on its literary universe.

The metaphor, in this case, is a board game titled "Snakes and Ladders," sporting a playing field replete with gaudy apparatus for climbing and sledding. This framing device amply justifies its presence since the course of true love in this Georgette Heyer romp involves no less than three plot lines — the volatile courtship and hard-won reconciliation of soulmates differing in temperament, of course, but also the social repercussions launched by the successful publication of the latter's satirical roman a clef, in addition to a legal battle for custody of a spoiled child waged by manifestly unsuitable parents.

Given the changes of locale mandated by entangled affairs catapulting our hapless conspirators through fashionable London and its country environs, over the waters of the English Channel and into a temporary refuge in France, who could object to the orderly progress facilitated by a draw of cards informing the players (and us) in efficiently concise terms, of each character's advancement or regression — e.g. "Long conversation. Skip a turn" — occasionally augmented by commentary. ("So you won. Now what?")

Layering motifs associated with Panto (Ddid I mention the roller skates, the scooters or the exercise-ball horses?) onto an already giddy scenario runs the risk of dividing our attention to a degree more overwhelming than amusing. Under the direction of Dorothy Milne and the dialect instruction of Carrie Hardin, a cast of exuberant newcomers and stalwart regulars keep the action sprinting apace at brisk and merry velocity and the repartee likewise nimble.

Samantha Newcomb and Andres Enriquez make an exemplary pair of reluctant sweethearts, and Kristina Loy and Wesley Scott an equally buffoonish pair of antagonists, with Kate Hildreth, Sean Sinitski, Terry Bell and Katie McLean Hainsworth in multiple roles contributing to the hijinks (which may include a lone audience member pressed into service for a cameo line-reading).

This review first appeared in Windy City Times, 9/17
Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
September 2017