The Artful Widow | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Artful Widow

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The Artful Widow, Piccolo Theatre, at the McGaw YMCA Child Care Center Auditorium. Eighteenth-century playwright Carlo Goldoni is known for bringing a naturalistic structure to the bawdy, largely improvised form of commedia dell'arte. This unfamiliar Goldoni work (he also wrote Servant of Two Masters) centers around young widow Rosaura (Courtney L.H. Baros), who will choose her next husband from an international bevy of suitors. The action plays out against Larry Geni's beautifully detailed and efficient set, which includes sponge-painted walls and windows overlooking Venetian plazas and canals.

The characters conform to broad types: the stiff Englishman (David W.M. Kelch), the Spaniard lisping "Barthelonian" style (Jared Martzell), the hotheaded Italian (Glenn Proud), and the poofy Frenchman (Dominic Tancredi). Masked stock characters appear as well, some to greater effect than others. Mischievous fool Arlecchino (Jacob A. Ware) wreaks havoc and incites delight with his bungling, tumbling, and tricks--ever seen a grown man chase his tail? But miserly Pantalone (John Szostek, who also directs)--the closest thing to a villain here--is neutered, a mere footnote to the romantic action, reduced to a slapstick dialogue about erectile dysfunction and monkey spanking with Dr. Lombardi (Ken Raabe), Rosaura's father. Thus the focus is the widow's elaborate scheme to discover her heart's true love, making this seem a 250-year-old episode of The Bachelorette, albeit with far greater intelligence and bigger swords.

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