The Devil's Disciple | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Devil's Disciple 

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The Devil's Disciple, Theo Ubique Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. This is one of George Bernard Shaw's least luminous offerings, an 1897 melodrama about two unlikely patriots--a pacifist preacher and a self-serving scoundrel--during the Revolutionary War. It begins as a warmed-over Washington Irving-Nathaniel Hawthorne pastiche but quickly slumps into Shaw's usual mannered comedy. Still, it's moderately engaging if done well, full of sentiments about freedom and honor among thieves that are easy to misinterpret but entirely earnest.

Theo Ubique's production is fraught with difficulties: David Siegel's set aims for the pristine fakeness of colonial Williamsburg, and Greg Silva's fife-and-drum sound design is straight out of a grade-school books-on-record version of Johnny Tremain. There are some terrific performers among the 14 cast members: Matt Yde and Mike Driscoll play off each other remarkably well as sparring partners Dick Dudgeon and Anthony Anderson, and Nigel Patterson oozes sleazy charm as their moral opponent, General Burgoyne. But most of the cast appear to have absolutely no idea what to do with a tailcoat or a pair of wire-frame spectacles. Worse, directors Fred Anzevino and Beverle Bloch have grafted 9/11 commentary onto the script: the flag-waving and playing of the Beatles' "Revolution" at the final curtain sends a message Shaw never intended.

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