By Ferenc Molnar
Adapted by Morwyn Brehner
Directed by Max Truax
At Oracle Theatre, Chicago
Tour de force performance by John Arthur Lewis produces many laughs
The creatives at Oracle Theatre, under the whimsical direction by Max Truax, have a history of mounting eclectically intriguing theatre. Utilizing their Public Access model (admission is free) they are on a mission to get everyone into seeing live theatre. In that mission, they have an increasing audience base.
Their latest work is a madcap screwball comedy by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar who wrote Liliom that was adapted into Carousel the musical. The President (1930) finds the hands-on control freak President Norrison, played with manic aplomb by John Arthur Lewis (doing the finest work of his career here). Norrison is getting ready for a holiday when his ward, Lydia (Michelle M. Oliver) announces that she is pregnant and married to a poor Communist taxi driver named Tony Foot (Travis Delgado). She also tells Norrison that her parents will arrive in a hour. Norrison only has 60 minutes to make the taxi driver into a successful, upper class gentleman worthy of Lydia.
In a massive assault, Norrison takes on the monumental task with zest and total command. Lewis sure dominates the stage with terrific comic timing, verbal process as well as hilarious physicality as he engineers his subordinates into high energy action. laughs abound as the wacky cast quickly enter as summoned by Norrison to fulfilled their task from tailoring to hair cutting to whatever it takes to transform the dirty left-wing taxi driver into a capitalist gentleman.
This 85 minute wild comedy is witty, bitingly satirical and awfully funny. Besides Lewis’ command of the stage, the ensemble is a hoot as many enter and re-enter as other zany characters all at the call of the president. You’d be hard pressed to see a funnier show filled with social satire than oracle’s The President.
The sound effects (by Steve Labedz) on Joanna Iwanicka’s impressive set add depth and the proper atmosphere to the production. Kudos to oracle theatre and the dedicated cast for mounting such a wonderful and different theatrical experience. There is no reason not to see this show: it is well done, with a fabulous lead actor and a game cast to a smart script – and – it is free. What are you waiting for?
At Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, for more info visit: www.publicaccesstheatre.org, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through May 31, 2014