Francesca Da Rimini | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Francesca Da Rimini 

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Francesca da Rimini, Yugen Theatre, at Footsteps Theatre. A literary curiosity from an era when theater creaked and blustered, George Henry Boker's 1855 verse drama rhapsodically evokes Francesca and Paolo, the 13th-century lovers Dante consigned to the second--the adulterers'--circle of hell. But despite Boker's romantic fustian, Francesca da Rimini remains a tabloid tragedy.

Young Francesca is forced into a dynastic marriage with the hideous hunchbacked soldier Lanciotto, but she loves Paolo, Lanciotto's handsome younger brother. They become lovers and are betrayed by a very unfunny Fool. Lanciotto had once offered Francesca to Paolo, but now vengeful, he slaughters the two. Boker tricks out this sordid story with appropriately florid grandiosity and the blatant pageantry of tableaux. Energetically mounted by Lynn Ann Bernatowicz, Yugen's dogged revival can't match the spectacle of the 19th-century productions, but the cast give it the old non-Equity try with tons of stage fog, frenetic dancing to Carl Orff, and impassioned declamation from David Hadinger's anguished Lanciotto, Michele DiMaso's artful Francesca, and Kelly Van Kirk's noble Paolo. Still, these flights of fancy don't travel as far as they used to.

--Lawrence Bommer

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