In association with Berkeley Repertory Theater
Adapted and Directed by: Emma Rice
Writers: Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy
At Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Wild Beyond Craziness but Profound
“Tristan & Yseult” challenges a description, because it is zany, silly, wild beyond craziness; but at the same time, moving and profound. The major theme…love…explores the complexity of loving in its many forms; those who are unloved, those searching for love, and those who love passionately. The exploration presents many facets of love between infatuated exuberance to painful betrayal.
The “Club of the UnLoved” , provides the hysterical comedy; the main characters offer the more serious dialogue and passion. How can that work together? That is the mysterious magic of “Tristan…”. One minute you can be laughing uncontrollably, and in the next few seconds, a dramatic moment occurs and then switches back to cause giggles and guffaws. Your amazement takes over, and you wonder how did they do that? Among many creative surprises, the antics of a few lovespotters with binoculars help.
Obviously, the play begins with a most imaginative script, derivative of Wagner’s Opera, “Tristan and Isolde… well sort of… but you can be quite sure that even Wagner is laughing somewhere. The prelude to his opera highlights many of the special moments in “Tristan…”, especially the climax. The small first- rate group of musicians sets the mood at the beginning of the play with old favorites, but later you hear original songs, and magnificent Wagner.
In inept hands , this “Tristan…” would surely fail, but the cast meets challenges of terribly demanding dramatic roles, that also include, dance, song and even a little trapez. Tristan, well played by Andrew Durand has such body control that he seems to be made of rubber in some comedic scenes, and yet draws empathy with his body language in others. King Mark’s acting (Stuart Goodwin) as both royalty and broken- hearted lover brings tears to your eyes, and Yseuit (Etta Murfitt) juggles her affection for the two men most convincingly. Among this talented ensemble cast you hear, Carly Bawden, a wonderful singer and violinist; who also plays the narrator, and a dramatic role! And not to forget is side-splitting, Craig Johnson, whose hysterical role must be seen rather than described in words!
The theatre group, Kneehigh, hails from Cornwall, England and uses a “unique brand of wonder-filled ensemble storytelling”, proven by “Tristan…” This “milestone show… took them to the National Theatre and then onward across the seas to Australia and America.” They just finished six weeks at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and survived the winter before traveling to Chicago.
If you were one of the lucky patrons to have bought a ticket to “Tristan and Yseult,” you are in for one of the best shows of the season, an absolutely brilliant performance. If not, rush to buy one of the remaining tickets because this exceptional show has only a two-week run.
Reviewed April 2, 2014
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue – Navy Pier
Performances: April 2-April 13, 2014
Tickets start at $60 For patrons under 35 – $20
40% discount on parking at Navy Pier