Jabberwocky | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jabberwocky 

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Jabberwocky, Tireswing Theatre, at Lakeshore Theater. Playwrights Tami Zimmerman Henry and Andrew Lines have turned Lewis Carroll's classic poem ("'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves...") into a quest story: a youth pursues the mythical Jabberwock to rescue his kidnapped sister and prove his manhood. The audience decides which roads young Grunderoyglaban (Brian Clements) will take and which guides will assist him.

This production includes healthy dollops of Carrollian whimsy: imaginative characters (such as the fuchsia-fringed, two-headed, jive-talking Jub Jub bird), shape-shifting actors, and a garbled language that dubs an awful spectacle, for example, an "awspectaful." However, for the company to achieve its stated goal--entertaining children and adults alike--it needs to resist easy choices and delve deeper into satire. Every step of Grunderoyglaban's path is well-worn: boy must find monster, teacher arms boy with tools, boy must use wits and divine aid to overcome obstacles before facing final confrontation (in this case, a disappointing anticlimax--or, to coin a phrase, an "antidisaclimappointmax"). Following the formula is no crime--it's worked for centuries. But the results won't transcend juvenile entertainment.

Carroll offers some of the richest skewering of adult idiosyncrasies in children's literature (J.K. Rowling notwithstanding). To forgo this fertile material and limit the adult humor to shallow pop-culture references (the Who, Molly McButter) is a crime that, in another environment, might move a certain queen to take off some heads.

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