Smash | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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SMASH, Bailiwick Repertory. What makes this adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1887 novel, An Unsocial Socialist, so ingenious is that playwright Jeffrey Hatcher retains Shaw's characters and thorough dissection of socialism but creates an entirely new framework that helps streamline some of the more confusing aspects of the narrative. In the process, he demonstrates his own knack for punchy comic dialogue, tossing off a steady stream of clever one-liners and Shavian witticisms.

In Smash, millionaire Sidney Trefusis is torn between his capitalist practices and socialist beliefs. Attempting to free himself from his upper-crust shackles, he leaves his bride at the altar and assumes the proletarian guise of "Mengels," retreating to a remote girls' school in order to spread Marxist doctrine. But this prototypical Shavian hero--highbrow bounder, capricious trickster, insufferable womanizer, and renegade idealist--is doomed to failure, his grand scheme unraveling before he even begins to implement it.

Bailiwick Repertory's no-frills designs--a few stage flats, simple props, and spare lighting--center attention on the performances. Hilarious and multidimensional, Benjamin Shields as Trefusis reveals a keen sense of comic timing, and David Frutkoff's turn as a foppish poetry teacher is truly inspired. The rest of the similarly excellent cast gives the script a madcap vitality. A stunning piece of theater with a deft comic touch, Smash is strong enough to rank with the best of Shaw's own work.

--Nick Green

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