Theatre

Simply said, First Folio’s latest production hits on all cylinders. Women in Jeopardy, currently performed at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook, is a sharp comedy that successfully lands a very high percentage of its humor with the audience thanks in part to its funny script with plenty of the credit going to the play’s dynamic cast that makes good comic timing look much too easy. Written by Wendy MacLeod, who penned The House of Yes, Schoolgirl Figure and Things Being What They Are, Women in Jeopardy grabs the audience within minutes and refuses to let go.

The story revolves three forty-something women, Mary, Jo and Liz, who, having been longtime best friends, have supported each other during their divorces and now look out for each other – like best friends should. Perhaps it would have been just another day, but when a dental hygienist goes missing from the parking lot of Liz’ new boyfriend, Jackson’s, dental practice, Mary and Jo quickly piece together a series of circumstantial evidence and jump to their own conclusion. Suspecting Jackson as the abductor, Mary and Jo still need to exercise caution not wanting to outright accuse him in front of Liz while, at the same time, wanting to protect her. When Liz’ daughter and her spacey boyfriend get into the mix, the story jumps to another level of hilarity. Women in Jeopardy is a whodunnit that keeps you laughing as much as guessing.

Amy Montgomery (Mary), Lydia Berger Gray (Jo) and Melanie Keller (Liz) are dynamite – and very funny - as the three besties, displaying strong chemistry together making their friendship highly believable. Hayley Burgess puts forth a strong performance as Amanda while Chris Vizurraga is also well cast as Amanda’s dopey snowboard shop-working boyfriend, Trenner, who hilariously crushes badly for Mary. Stealing many well-deserved laughs is Joe Foust, who doubles as both Jackson and the town sheriff, Kirk. Women in Jeopardy goes to the perfect height of comedy without go so over the top that witty humor becomes sheer silliness.

Fiercely directed by Janice L. Blixt, Women in Jeopardy is a finely-crafted and superbly-acted comedy that delivers consistent laughs and just the right amount of intrigue. If you're looking for a great way to spend a delightfully entertaining evening during the Valentine's season, look no further. 

Highly recommended.

Women in Jeopardy is being performed at Mayslake Peabody Estate through February 25th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.firstfolio.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

In the action-packed world premiere of Captain Blood, First Folio Executive Producer David Rice along with his wife, Artistic Director Alison C. Vesely, have collaborated on a swashbuckling adventure that is sure to be long remembered for its choreographed swordfights, enthralling story and witty comicality. Sadly, Alison recently lost a two-year battle with cancer and passed away just two months before Captain Blood’s debut. But her final collaboration with her husband will undoubtedly leave its mark on those who see it, as it is sure to be rooted in the minds of audience members thanks to Rice’s skilled writing, a talented cast and a strong directing effort. A fitting tribute to Alison C. Vesley, Captain Blood is stamped with Rice’s humor and is engulfed with a subtle warm-heartedness throughout and not-so-subtle theme of love that can only exist in a project of true passion.  

Adapted from Rafeal Sabatini’s 1922 classic novel Captain Blood (later turned into a film in 1935), theatre goers are regaled to the captivating high seas exploit of Peter Blood, a 17th century British physician, imprisoned by his own country for treating enemy Spanish soldiers. Blood is soon sold to a plantation on a Caribbean island for ten pounds where he becomes a slave. It’s not long after his enslavement that Blood falls in love with the niece of the plantation’s owner, Arabella Bishop. But after a daring escape, Blood soon takes to the waters, this time as a Caribbean pirate captain, whose favorite pastime is robbing Spanish ships. Throughout his pillaging, we wonder if Captain Blood will once again cross paths with his love, Arabella. 

Wonderfully directed by Janice L. Blixt, Captain Blood is a thrilling story of romance and freedom. Though a fast-paced pirate adventure, Blixt does a fantastic job of implementing a strong leitmotif of love as the play’s underlying driving force. 

Nick Sandys (Artistic Director of Remy Bumppo) leads this gifted cast as Captain Blood, a role that Rice immediately envisioned for the dashing actor five years ago during the project’s inception. Not only does Sandys deliver a picture-perfect performance as the charming, yet dynamic captain, he is also the contributing force behind the choreography of the play’s many dazzling swordfights and action scenes.  Sandys is joined by Heather Chrisler as his subject of love, Arebella Bishop. Some might remember Chrisler for her compelling portrayal of Virginia Poe in Rice’s brilliant work, The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe. Though not as challenging a role as Virginia Poe, Chrisler is as flawless as can be as Arebella, giving Sandys a believable counterpart to whom we can truly relate. 

The play also gets a boost from veteran actor Kevin McKillip whose previous work includes First Folio’s The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe and The Winter’s Tale. McKillip takes on dual roles as both Hagthorpe, a ship crew member who helps narrate the play, and Don Alan, a Spanish sea captain. It is McKillip who draws the biggest laughs due to his delicious comic timing and hilarious delivery of a Castilian Spanish accent. Other nods go to Christopher W. Jones as Wolverton, Sam Krey as Lord Julian and Aaron Christensen as Colonel Bishop/Harper.

With its many characters donning costumes to the likeness of the era and a vast set that is often used as a nautical vessel complete with trapdoors and projections of the Caribbean seascape, it is easy to get lost into this classic story. 

Captain Blood is an adventurous production that is sure to capture the hearts and imagination of all those who are seeking high seas fun, action and love. Recommended as a show the entire family can enjoy, Captain Blood will be performed at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook through February 26th. For tickets and/or more information on this beautifully adapted for stage production of the definitive novel, click here

 

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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