REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Mandrake

By Niccolo MachiavelliThe Mandrake

Translated by Peter Constantine

Directed by Steve Scott

At A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago

Wacky 16th Century Italian comedy produces laughs

With Steve Scott’s whimsical take on Niccolo Machiavelli’s satirical play about the corrupt Italian society, The Mandrake becomes an ensemble tour de force for the nimble players at A Red Orchid Theatre.   Despite the cast pushing a tad too hard for laughs, The Mandrake is a smart, tongue-in-check comedy featuring quick wit, physicality and the constant wink to the audience.

the mandrake at a red orchid theatre

Featuring the scoundrel Ligurio (Lance Baker at the top of his comic game) narrating the preface, we learn the basics of the story:  Callimaco (Steve Haggard) loves Lucrezia (Cheyenne Pinson), Lucrezia is married to Nicia (Doug Vickers), Nicia wants a baby… enter Ligurio and add a corrupt  Friar (David Chrzanowski), the doting mother, Sosrata ( Lucinda Johnston), add Callimaco’s man servant, Siro ( Brian Kavanaugh) and the root of the mandrake to make for an extraordinarily complicated and hilarious plan. With everyone behaving so badly, can anyone possibly win? The actions gets complicated but fun.

the mandrake at a red orchid theatre

For 90 minutes, we are treated to physical and  verbal wackiness from a group of zanies including a bumbling fool – Nicia – the richly weird Doug Vickers; a cunning manipulator  Ligurio, Lance Baker with his telling expressions; and the hyper-active Callimaco, Steve Haggard whose facial contortions are hysterical. The Mandrake necessitates our attention but the payoff is there in laughs as we appreciate the complex and theatrical comic timing of each character – with a few ad-libs and asides through-in.  The comic elements come fast and loose utilizing wordplay, gestures and physicality in an over-the-top production that exudes hyper-energy from the entire cast.  The performances make this a show worth your time – and, you’ll get a few laughs along the way.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: April 11, 2011

For full show information, go to The Mandrake page at TheatreinChicago

The Mandrake will continue at A Red Orchid through May 24th with performances on Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m, Tickets are priced at $25-$30, calling 312-943-8722 or online at, the running time is 90 minutes without intermission.

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