Jeeves and the Mating Season | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jeeves and the Mating Season 

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JEEVES AND THE MATING SEASON, City Lit Theater Company. P.G. Wodehouse's delightfully codependent duo are up to no good again, as wimp-simp Bertie Wooster gets his patrician puss into entanglements from which only the impassive but resourceful Jeeves can extricate him. Once more Mark Richard brings dithering dexterity to narrator Bertie, a duffer whose skewering of the saps around him is funnier than the overwhelming plot. Page Hearn, who also adapted the novel, depicts Bertie's manservant with a superiority so cleverly camouflaged it looks like servility.

Kevin Theis's brisk 150-minute staging abounds in delicious caricatures. Joseph Wycoff is versatility itself as both nerdy newt fancier Gussie Fink-Nottle and flamboyant dreamer Esmond Haddock, who finally stands up to his five ferocious aunts. Heidi Gottcent warbles melodiously as Bertie's romantic nemesis, Madeline Bassett, still convinced against all odds that this confirmed bachelor pines for her. A terrific spoof of a village talent show proves funnier than anything Alan Ayckbourn ever wrote.

Seven actors play 19 roles. Therein lies a problem: too many characters propelling a byzantine story line. And compared to previous Wodehouse romps, Hearn's Jeeves does very little to save the day. The plot doesn't just thicken--it coagulates, with no particular payoff for all the exposition. But for Wodehouse fans the language will more than atone for this indiscretion; for City Lit fans the company's upper lips have never been stiffer. Just bring a flow chart if you care to follow the plot.

--Lawrence Bommer

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