Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 

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City Lit Theater Company, at the Ivanhoe Theater.

City Lit's current P.G. Wodehouse laughfest is a tad long on exposition, and not everything in it is neatly resolved, but in Sandra Grand's staging it's a hilarious successor to The Code of the Woosters and Right Ho, Jeeves, nearly perfect in casting, timing, delivery, accents, and atmosphere.

Once again Bertie Wooster, who practically patented cluelessness, dithers on the edge of disaster, ensnared by a bluestocking admirer and menaced by the lady's fire-breathing fiance. Wooster, whose brain is strained by a compound sentence, must also contend with his dragon Aunt Dahlia, eager to recruit him in a harebrained scheme involving pawned pearls, and with another lovelorn loon, Percy Gorringe, who takes Bertie for a rancid rival. Fortunately Bertie has Jeeves, the valet whose eyebrows speak more eloquently than most lips. (His response to Bertie's hideous new mustache is a disdain too rich for words.) Unflappable and infallible, the ever-clever Jeeves is always armed with a simple answer to the worst muddle.

Adapter Mark Richard, who plays Bertie, has now crafted him into a masterwork of double takes and pregnant pauses; you can see the face empty as the brain goes blank. In a strong debut as the impassive-aggressive Jeeves, Page Hearn makes his lines quiver with painfully repressed superiority. The supporting characters cunningly flesh out Wodehouse's delicious descriptions, such as "Her face was shining like the seat of a busdriver's trousers": Kelly Nespor vaporizes as the neurasthenic poetess, Steve Heller fulminates as the lady's dyspeptic suitor, and Judith West makes a magnificent Aunt Dahlia, stately in her schizophrenia. Good show!

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