Dear Brutus | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Dear Brutus 

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Dear Brutus, North Lakeside Players. In 1904 J.M. Barrie gave us Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn't grow up. Thirteen years later he produced this fantasy about people who are entirely too grown-up. Drowning in regret for the way their lives have turned out, guests at an English country estate are offered a second chance by a Quentin Crisp-ish fellow who turns out to be an old fairy in the most literal sense.

Though its title is drawn from Julius Caesar, Dear Brutus is actually a very deliberate homage to A Midsummer Night's Dream. Like Shakespeare's comedy, Barrie's supplies a set of confused lovers, a magical wood, and some prankish twisting of social boundaries over the course of a single long night. There's even a changeling of sorts like the one that sets Titania and Oberon feuding. But where Shakespeare maintains a romantically airy tone, Barrie only grows more rueful, by turns sentimental and surprisingly acid. The magic here may be Shakespearean, but--with one wondrous exception--the use to which it's put owes more to The Picture of Dorian Gray: a chance to learn exactly what kind of monster one is.

The North Lakeside Players have done a great service in reviving a little-known play by an artist whose oeuvre has been overshadowed by his greatest success. But this production is only barely adequate. Some of the actors can't handle the low comedy, and the confined performance area can't encompass the fantasy.

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