Jeeves Takes Charge | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jeeves Takes Charge 

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P.G. Wodehouse's Bertie and Jeeves stories--vignettes in the lives of the ultimate English twit and his protective, pluperfect valet--pulled off the neat stunt of satirizing the British upper classes while amusing them at the same time. In bringing Wodehouse's writings to the stage, Edward Duke broadens the material's base of appeal not by cheapening it but by going for the universality underneath the cleverly chosen details. Duke's Bertie Wooster is a total drone, self-absorbed, sexually insecure, and overbearingly foolish as he regales the audience with his problems with various fiancees and aunts and skittish school chums. It's a slicing portrait of idiocy among the idle rich; there is, in Duke's performance, a real humanity that any audience must identify with, making Bertie both endearing and a bit of a reflecting mirror. And when, with the quick flip of a monocle and a perfectly etched shift in physical attitude, Duke changes roles from Bertie to Jeeves--or to any of ten other characters of either sex and all ages--he uses splendidly honed stage technique to explore the richness of the human comedy that binds us all. This limited return engagement reaffirms the not-to-be-missed skill of Duke's acting, which brings the material to life with a vividness that gives real meaning to that cliche. Royal-George Theatre, through November 8. Tuesday-Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 6 and 9 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $16.50-$19.50.

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