Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Castle

By Howard Barkeroracle theatre, the castle by howard barker

Directed by Ben Fuchsen & Justin Warren

At Oracle Theatre Chicago

Wild, funny and intensely engaging production of Barker’s The Castle is worth a visit.

Howard Barker is a strange playwright indeed.  Barker’s notion that an audience should share several responses to onstage events, therefore, Barker tries for complex, ambiguous and unstable responses by mixing comedy with tragedy and by blending time periods with absurdest rambling speeches and convoluted plots.  His intention is theatrical chaos and the cast of The Castle delivers one energetic and intense production of a true “catastrophic comedy!”

According to the press notes:  “Upon returning from the Crusades (one of them, anyway), a pious Knight, his ribald Squire, and a cunning Captured Servant behold lush, natural overgrowth where once there was an industrious kingdom. Is this what happens when the women are left in charge? Absurd carnage ensues as the Knight restores order by building walls. Barker’s 1985 play is a catastrophic, repulsive, and hysterical examination of the orthodox institution’s reaction to social progress. It also contains more nauseating tripe than Monty Python crammed in a clown-car.”

oracle theatre, the castle by howard barker

I guess that is what The Castle is about? This is a play that audiences can enjoy by the sheer wacky performances by the fearless cast that includes Dave Boren, Jason Rice, Dave Steiger, Rachel Boller, Victoria C. Gilbert, Casey Chapman, Jamie Bragg and Jackson King. The in-the-round staging, the  smart shadow puppets, and the gleaming lighting each added to the wacky elements that garnered funny moments.

oracle theatre, the castle by howard barker

The Castle demonstrates Oracle Theatre production and staging skills (fine direction by Ben Fuchens and Justin Warren) as well as their ability to stretch the envelop of theatrical boundaries. Kudos to them for their chutzpah in mounting Barker’s weird play.  This is both a provocative work and a fun theatrical experience. If you have an appetite for something totally out of the box–get to Oracle  Theatre and catch The Castle–it’ll widen your outlook as to what theatre can do.


Tom Williams

At Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-244-2980, tickets $20 with  $10 Sunday tickets, Friday 7  Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through March 6, 2010

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