The Phantom Lady | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Phantom Lady 

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THE PHANTOM LADY, Sword & Cloak Productions, at the Footsteps Theatre Company. Dona Angela's overprotective brothers--the stuffy Don Juan and the nerdy Don Luis--keep a close watch on her, but sometimes she and her servant contrive to sneak away for some fun. But when Luis spots them, Angela is forced to enlist the aid of a handsome stranger, Don Manuel, in making her escape. Her rescuer turns out to be an old friend of Juan's and is invited to stay at their home, little realizing that the mysterious lady-in-distress also lives there. Then Angela's servant discovers a secret passage to the guest rooms . . .

The play is Pedro Calderon de la Barca's The Phantom Lady, the time is 1629, and gender-blind Sword & Cloak Productions throw themselves into their roles with youthful gusto. To be sure, most are barely out of the classroom, their 17th-century Madrid accents are remarkably like those of 20th-century Evanston, and the technical quality seldom rises above that of a well-equipped student effort. But they display a competent grasp of classical dialogue--if sometimes at the expense of character development--and a more than competent skill at the movement demanded, which includes rapier-and-dagger dueling as well as commedia dell'arte slapstick (several performers are veterans of the Bristol Renaissance Faire). Aaron Morgan sets a fine tempo as Cosme, a garrulous servant; Elizabeth Kline's Angela and Maeve Yore's Dona Beatrice wear Wendy Zdrodowski's sumptuous costumes with regal grace; and director David Schmidt's rip-snorting swordplay is ably executed by Andrea Blumberg, as the thoroughly charming Manuel, and Andrew Dannhorn, the thoroughly uncharming Luis.

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