A Family Affair | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

A Family Affair 

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A Family Affair, Greasy Joan & Company, at the Chopin Theatre. Out struts an impertinent young woman in a girdle who declares, "Death is terribly unfashionable at the moment." So begins this dense, self-indulgent, but visually enchanting production of Alexander Ostrovsky's 1850 comic drama, adapted by Nick Dear. The young woman, the daughter of a wealthy Moscow merchant, wants to marry, and to that end she enlists the help of her flighty mother, her overbearing father, and assorted hangers-on with both romance and finance on their minds.

Director Gavin Witt has crafted a literate but oddball two hours, with wildly mixed results. What works: an excellent cast, led by Chris Conry as lovelorn suitor Lazar Elizarich; miniballets that move the action along with the flickering energy of the Keystone Kops; an alarming cast mutiny that hilariously breaks the fourth wall. What doesn't: off-putting choreography that fills the stage with actors goose-stepping their way toward apoplexy; Dear's unfunny anachronisms ("Fuck that," barks one character); and, most ridiculous, a female matchmaker played by a man in drag.

The production is sumptuously designed. Josh Epstein's fantastic set, anchored by a giant surrealistic window looming upstage, is sophisticated and moody, as is his luscious lighting. Erin Teufel's fanciful costumes, all crinolines and poplin, are remarkable, the show's true highlight.

--Erik Piepenburg

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