Mr. Punch, or Jack and the Blase Bride | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Mr. Punch, or Jack and the Blase Bride

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Panto, that uniquely British descendant of commedia, embraces so many low-art traditions that describing it simply is simply impossible. And those who haven't been brought up on the stuff can't provide quite the raucous audience participation the form requires or fully appreciate all the convention-dependent gags. But given these difficulties, the plucky Piccolo Theatre ensemble does handy work in this remount of its 2002 panto-inspired musical. Playwright Ken Raabe makes a brief tutorial of the opening scenes, and on opening night what seemed like a couple plants in the house helped patrons too shy (adults) or unfocused (children) to vocalize on their own. Loraine Masterton's frenetic but fluid direction keeps things rollicking along from there. If a bit rough around the edges, the vibrant cast has charm and enthusiasm to spare; especially good are John Szostek, Deborah Craft, and the marvelous Raabe himself as Punch. Through 1/30: Fri 8 PM, Sat 3:30 and 7 PM, Sun 3:30 PM. Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main, Evanston, 847-328-2204. $12-$20.

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