Thank You, Jeeves/Tea With Saki: An Afternoon of Sinful Sweets and Wicked Wit | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Thank You, Jeeves/Tea With Saki: An Afternoon of Sinful Sweets and Wicked Wit 

City Lit Theater Company, at the Ivanhoe Theater/ City Lit theater Company, at the Chicago Cultural Center Studio Theater

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Thank You, Jeeves, City Lit Theater Company, at the Ivanhoe Theater, and Tea With Saki: An Afternoon of Sinful Sweets and Wicked Wit, City Lit Theater Company, at the Chicago Cultural Center Studio Theater. Serving up its annual helping of Christmas anglophilia, City Lit presents yet another tasty dollop of P.G. Wodehouse's madcap buffoonery as well as a bland and cheerless dish of misanthropic satire courtesy of H.H. Munro (aka Saki).

Wodehouse's Thank You, Jeeves, adapted by Mark Richard, chronicles the misadventures of good-hearted twit of the year Bertie Wooster (Richard) and his unflappable butler Jeeves (Page Hearn). In this ridiculously giddy escapade Wooster endeavors to win the heart of an American heiress for a childhood chum, and so a blustery American tycoon and bearded Appalachian musicians adorn Wodehouse's usual satire of the English bourgeoisie. Though Sandra Grand's staging is a trifle clumsy and overdone in its broad slapstick high jinks, it allows Wodehouse's infectious humor to shine in Richard's and Hearn's deft performances as English literature's wittiest closeted couple.

Covering similar satirical territory is Tea With Saki, a dreary concert reading of six stories. Some of Saki's sharp skewering of pompous upper-class bores survives this sluggish hour-long affair, particularly in the classic tale of a brutally honest feline, "Tobermory." But alas, much of the wit falls victim to overacting, bug-eyed mugging, and undifferentiated performances. Preceded by an (optional) overpriced offering of grim snacks--purportedly high tea--it's the sort of affair that poor Jeeves and Tobermory would have found insufferable.

--Adam Langer

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