Cathleen Ni Houlihan, A Florentine Tragedy, and The Ugly Duckling | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Cathleen Ni Houlihan, A Florentine Tragedy, and The Ugly Duckling 

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Cathleen Ni Houlihan, A Florentine Tragedy, and The Ugly Duckling, TinFish Theatre. The writers represented in this program of English and Irish one-acts rank among the most lauded in the English language, but that appears to carry little weight with TinFish director Daniel Foss, who evidently regards their eloquent wordplay as a mere clothesline on which to hang his rudimentary interpretations.

For William Butler Yeats's patriotic Cathleen Ni Houlihan, an allegory about ancient spirits rising from the dead to rally their countrymen, the actors mostly dispense with dialects, but this curtain-raiser still suffers from a classroom ambience, most noticeable in the old-age makeup worn by obviously youthful Karyn Morris. And Oscar Wilde's A Florentine Tragedy, in which a cuckolded merchant regains his wife's esteem by outwitting her paramour, emerges as simple farce, its inattention to the nuances of Wilde's repartee redeemed only by a climactic rapier duel (choreographed by Stephanie Repin, who also plays the wife).

The plot of A.A. Milne's The Ugly Duckling--a fable about a princess of "elusive beauty" whose parents despair of finding her a husband--lends itself better to Foss's cartoonish vision. And the story's generic characters (henpecked king, shrewish queen, ditzy servant) allow the actors to relax and have fun. Overall, however, the evening has all the earmarks of a casually conceived project hastily executed.

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