The Way of the World | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Way of the World 

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The Way of the World, Mom and Dad Productions, at Heartland Studio Theater. The worldwide craze for all things 80s marches on, with ever odder results. Take this foray into Restoration comedy. It's common knowledge that the 80s were kind of the 50s (skinny ties, etc) and kind of 18th century (Les liaisons dangereuses, etc). But who knew they were the 17th century? Mom and Dad Productions has transposed Congreve's sparkling work of 1700 to 1980s London and recast the roles. Roguish Mirabell is a Don Johnson type, vivacious Millamont is gowned a la Like a Virgin Madonna, and blocking characters Marwood and Fainall suggest Siouxsie Sioux and Spandau Ballet respectively. Mrs. Fainall is a bizarrely attractive Tammy Faye Bakker, Foible a Cramps-esque Satanette, Waitwell a Brian Setzer-like rocker, and queeny Witwoud a smashingly over-the-top Adam Ant in full Prince Charming drag.

Beyond the highly affected gesture and trashy hedonism common to both periods and the canny "mainstream" take on the fresh-faced leads, this update is pretty arbitrary. But Restoration comedy, the prototype of the modern sitcom, doesn't have much substance anyway, so a lofty allegory would have been beside the point. And the company's handling of the lightning-quick wordplay, dainty crosscutting, emblematic dress, and high/low British accents is close to perfect--credit director Joe Feliciano, costume designer Michelle Zee, and dialect coach Jamie Mayhew. The sound track bounces, the cast attacks the material with giddy cheer, and Megan Pitsios (Mrs. Fainall), Ryan Smith (Witwoud), and Sean Ewart (Fainall) are hilariously, devastatingly good.

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