Uncle Fred in the Springtime | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Uncle Fred in the Springtime 

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Uncle Fred in the Springtime, City Lit Theater Company. For over ten years, City Lit has brought cheerful adaptations of the Bertie and Jeeves stories to P.G. Wodehouse fans. This year they've turned to a different branch of the Wodehouse canon, the Blandings Castle series. Instead of the hapless Bertie and resourceful Jeeves, we're given the indomitable Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Earl of Ickenham--or just Uncle Fred.

The humor here is less about class than it is about love--for a woman, money, drink, or a pig. The madcap story, lovingly if sometimes choppily adapted by Page Hearn and directed by Kevin Theis, is about the ever-more-elaborate plans Uncle Fred devises in order to secure a large sum of money for his nephew, who's in debt to a bookie. Along the way we get romantic entanglements, identity theft, the kidnapping of a prize pig, and the regular whistling of "Loch Lomond."

Don Bender is suave and charming as Uncle Fred. His great timing drives the story--and it drags noticeably when he's not onstage. Karen Pratt is appropriately forbidding as Lady Constance Keeble, and Doug MacKechnie nails nephew Pongo's bemusement as his uncle drags him in and out of trouble. Anthony Churchill's set is efficient but drab--unworthy of this jaunty production.

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