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Bertie & Jeeves and the Code of the Woosters

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BERTIE & JEEVES AND THE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS, City Lit Theater Company, at the Chicago Cultural Center. City Lit's holiday offering is P.G. Wodehouse's sequel to Right Ho, Jeeves, the theater's 1993 holiday hit. With quivering upper lip and the desperation of a cornered twit, Bertie Wooster is again embroiled in sticky scrapes from which only Jeeves, his ineffably ept valet, can extricate him. Will the real master please stand up?

The dippy, at times plodding plot revolves around a silver 18th-century cow-shaped creamer. For many reasons--revenge, marriage, spite--nearly everyone Bertie knows is trying to blackmail him into stealing the antique. Cunningly Wodehouse links this unassuming piece of silver to the unstable fortunes of such eccentrics as the goggle-eyed newt fancier Augustus Fink-Nottle, his flamboyantly romantic fiancee Madeline Bassett, Bertie's dragon-lady aunt, and a fascist thug named Roderick Spode, leader of the Black Shorts.

Mark Hardiman's cartoony staging takes its cue from Mark Netherland's backdrop: goofily enlarged pages from the novel. City Lit's impeccable English accents, stopwatch timing, and inspired mugging give Wodehouse's antics enough dithering precision to turn them wacky. Mark Richard's Bertie narrates the folderol, mixing arrogant incompetence with spontaneous befuddlement, while Kenneth Northcott's deadpan-dry, silky-smooth Jeeves waxes wise just by raising an eyebrow. The rest of the cast are fully as perfect as their lines.

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