Fortinbras | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Fortinbras, Cenacle Theatre Company, at Pilsen Theatre. "Something about this place makes me want to talk to myself," soliloquizes the Norwegian prince who--as every English-lit student knows--marched into Elsinore at the end of Hamlet. There he discovered most of the Danish court slain and the witnesses' story--well, implausible. But Fortinbras, the pragmatic protagonist of Lee Blessing's satire on modern political strategy, promptly spins the whole affair into feel-good simplicity. He doesn't reckon on the interference of a bevy of disgruntled ghosts, however, who doggedly pursue the truth until it outs.

Cenacle Theatre Company made this play a last-minute substitute for one that proved unavailable--and this production falls somewhat short of the high standard previously set by the fledgling ensemble. Blessing's crisp dialogue and acerbic observations stand on their own, however. An intelligent and energetic cast--led by Zak Brown as Fortinbras, driven to hysterical inaction as fatally counterproductive as his predecessor's controversial madness--emphasizes the irony of the characters' ghostly incarnations: the naive Ophelia is now a femme fatale, lustful Claudius and Gertrude are sexually frustrated ascetics, garrulous Polonius holds his peace, etc. Director Tom Rusnak keeps the pace brisk, producing satisfying if less than perfectly executed comedy.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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