As he did last season in his captivating staging of The Misanthrope, director Charles Newell delivers a production both hilarious and disturbing. Court Theatre's season closer is a mostly superb mounting of Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais' 1775 comedy about a wily barber who helps an aristocrat win a woman's love against the "futile precaution" of her elderly guardian, who wants her for himself. The quirky new adaptation by Chicagoans Gilbert Pestureau and Anne Wakefield feels contemporary--only occasionally resorting to deliberate anachronism. Though he gives the play's commedia dell'arte humor its due, Newell also probes the darker implications of Bartholo's sexual obsession with his ward Rosine. As Bartholo, William Brown skillfully balances farcical buffoonery and psychological depth; as Figaro, Canadian actor Diego Matamoros, a deft and graceful clown, gives a hiply understated performance that adds a contemporary, slightly bitter edge to the class-based comedy. Well supported by a stellar ensemble including Hollis Resnik, Bradley Mott, and the delightful Kate Fry as Rosine, the show (running in repertory with the frothy Molnar comedy The Play's the Thing) also features an inventive if gimmicky set by Todd Rosenthal: a bureau whose drawers emerge and recede to create a bed, a ladder, and a balcony--indispensable elements of classic sex farce. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, 753-4472. Through May 19: Wednesdays (May 15), 7:30 PM; Thursdays (May 9), 7:30 PM; Fridays (May 10), 8 PM; Saturdays (May 4 and 18), 8 PM; Saturdays (May 11), 3 PM; Sundays (May 5 and 19), 2:30 PM; Sundays (May 12), 7:30 PM. $23-$29. --Albert Williams
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Matthew Gilson.