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Indulgences in the Louisville Harem

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Indulgences in the Louisville Harem, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, at the Chicago Cultural Center. As directed by Kimberly Senior, this John Orlock play can be bright and fun even as the characters' frustration and longing give the script depth. Meighan Gerachis and Tara Mallen play Florence and Viola Becker, two sisters in 1902 Kentucky who decide to order suitors by mail from a catalog of "suitable gentlemen." Their callers are mute mesmerist Amos N. Robbilet (Lance Baker) and his talkative assistant, Winfield Davis (Keith Kupferer). Of course we expect their hastily hatched marital plans to be doomed, but Orlock makes the sisters' reactions interesting.

Mallen's whimsical, impressionable Viola and Kupferer's rough-around-the-edges Winfield are well-rounded, and Baker communicates much through Amos's gestures and physical demeanor--his demonstration of mesmerism with Kupferer is hilarious. Gerachis clearly establishes Florence's stern nature, but we only really see her passion in the final moments--and earlier glimpses of it would have made her ultimate decision more convincing. The staging might also have been to blame: I was sitting on the side of the theater that was Viola's nearly exclusive domain. People on the other side of the house may well have found Mallen lacking.

Still, there's a great lighthearted theatrical flair to this production, and the characters' observations on courtship and love are appealingly appropriate to today's dating rituals.

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