Bertolt Brecht's fable about a wise fool of a judge who must decide whether a child belongs to the nasty aristocrat who bore him or the sweet but plucky maid who raised him certainly calls for an inventive production. But Jennifer Leavitt's staging for Speaking Ring Theatre Company is more busy than imaginative. An air of frenzied desperation hangs about this eager-to-please show, virtually stuffed with devices of one sort or another: choreography, stylized acting, masks, metatheatrical clowning. All these things are fine in themselves, but when they distract from the story they become gimmicks, betraying a lack of confidence in the play's power to entertain. Brecht himself noted that "the pleasure of telling a story is inhibited by fear that it will fall flat." Speaking Ring seems to have succumbed to that fear. Through 5/14: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 5 PM. Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, sanctuary, 925 W. Diversey, 312-458-9374. $12-$15; industry nights Thu.