Hfob-n-Tales | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Hfob-n-Tales

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Hfob-n-Tales, TriArts, Inc., at Breadline Theatre. In its latest experiment with masks and commedia-style role-playing, Tri-Arts, Inc., makes a wild stab at modernity with an overtly sexual script that might as well be named "Porky's: The Renaissance." In a somewhat jarring twist, fairy-tale characters pepper their speech with late-70s porn cliches--the smell underneath one character's hoopskirt is likened to a can of tuna. Still, it isn't such a leap to today's world from 16th-century Italy, when commedia dell'arte scripts routinely centered around fantasies of deflowering young virgins and the length of someone's nose hinted at the potential size of the bulge in his pants.

This is a showcase for the company's crack team of designers: Laura Jay's costumes--including a chastity belt--make for some great sight gags, and set designer Simon Lashford has cleverly nestled a palatial sitting room inside the pages of a giant folding book. But Hfob-n-Tales, which has no director, spends too much time skittering between multiple story lines, never quite managing to shape its source material into a cohesive narrative. It's also in dire need of an aggressive edit. And TriArts should find some middle ground between commedia's historical reverence, which the company seems hell-bent on minimizing, and the grotesque asides used as coping mechanisms.

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