REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Father Ruffian: Shakespeare’s Falstaff Story

Adapted and Directed by Paul Edwardscity lit

At City Lit Theatre, Chicago

Screaming and shouting mares the production of Falstaff’s story

The usual high production standards at City Lit hit a low point with Paul Edwards’ Father Ruffian: Shakespeare’s Falstaff Story. The decision to allow the cast to shout and scream so often that I was ready to ask for ear plugs was a major mistake. From Nick Bonges as Hotspur’s constant shouting, to Molly Lyons screaming as Earl of Worcester, to the gang at the Boar’s Head Tavern’s constant boisterous noisiness, I quickly lost interest in the work as the deafening cacophony quickly became so irritating that I could only wish the play to end quickly. But it lasted an excruciating 2 hours and 30 minutes of shrill shouting.

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But if that wasn’t enough, Edward Kuffert, at director Edwards bequest, played Sir John Falstaff only as a liar, bragger, and coward without showing Falstaff’s vulnerability, his comic side, and  his essential pathos. Kuffert’s Falstaff is only mildly funny yet amazingly unlikable. This hurts the production.

Another problem here is the distinct lack of articulation and enunciation of  many in the cast that rendered much of The Bard’s lyrical dialogue a stifling mess. Mark Pracht, as King Henry IV,  usually an articulate actor, swallowed and mumbled his lines while appearing unsure and uncomfortable.

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Those production flaws together with the video projections that mixed history with modern pictures, and the use of cellphones while the battle scenes used swords clutter the point-of-view. Using much dialogue from Shakespeare’s Henry IV with some from Henry V together with source material from Holinshed’s Chronicles, Father Ruffian has potential but with all the screaming, mumbling, and  over acting, this production failed to deliver.

Only Nick Lake as Hal delivered the future king with terrific zest, smart presence as we witness him moving from a young party animal under Falstaff’s influence to the mature leader that his father always dreamed of. But Nick Lake’s work wasn’t enough to save this noisy production.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 13, 2015

For more info checkout the Father Ruffian: Shakespeare’s Falstaff Story at

At City Lit Theatre, 1020 West Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773.293.3682 or visit, tickets $25 – $29, Thursdays-Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 2hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through February 15, 2015