The Baker's Wife | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Baker's Wife

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Marcel Pagnol's The Baker's Wife (1938) has aged surprisingly gracefully. If you can overlook its stagebound conceits--Pagnol was, after all, a playwright who used film more or less as a recording device--you may be captivated by the sincerity of this rustic moral fable and beguiled by the friendliness of its characters. Quintessentially French in its outlook, the simple tale dwells on the predicament of a Provencal village whose new baker isn't up to making good bread because his young wife has run off with a handsome shepherd. With assured pacing and deft, double-entendre-prone dialogue, Pagnol pushes a melodramatic premise through a series of comedic twists as villagers from all walks of life band together to console the baker and retrieve his wayward wife. At the center of the action and epitomizing the play's wry sensibility is the baker, played by Raimu, whose naturalistic acting adds an edge to the contrived moments. The Baker's Wife is part of a 12-film touring Pagnol retrospective now at Facets, inspired, no doubt, by the enormous success of Claude Berri's adaptations of Pagnol, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring. Wednesday, March 1, 6:45, Facets Multimedia, 1517 W. Fullerton, 281-9075.

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