Mr. Punch, or Jack and the Blase Bride | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Mr. Punch, or Jack and the Blase Bride 

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Mr. Punch, or Jack and the Blase Bride, Piccolo Theatre, at McGaw YMCA Child Care Center Auditorium. In his director's note, Briton Geoffrey Buckley suggests that the allure of pantomime can't be fully appreciated by an American audience--and it is one of those quintessentially British institutions, like blood sausage, that simply doesn't translate well this side of the Atlantic. Which is too bad: there's a lot to be learned from this loopy precursor of postmodernism, the backbone of every Monty Python sketch. Piccolo Theatre pleads its case for the form well enough, though it's pushed a very large boulder only halfway up a very steep hill.

The best elements of this vaudevillian holiday musical, with songs by Rich Maisel, are visceral. Courtney L.H. Baros's vibrant costumes suggest opulence despite a shoestring budget. And the first act closes with an exquisitely choreographed, very fanciful panto routine involving a piece of wallpaper and a dozen buckets of runny paste--a bit so messy that mopping the stage takes the entire intermission. But Ken Raabe's script changes lanes too often and too abruptly to generate anything more than the most superficial chuckles. George Bernard Shaw once remarked that he went to the theater "to be moved to laughter, not to be tickled...into it"--and this troupe ought to be able to dig a bit deeper and accomplish much more.

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