The Fair Maid of the West | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Fair Maid of the West


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THE FAIR MAID OF THE WEST, CT20 Ensemble, at the Theatre Building. No sooner do the handsome Spencer and the beautiful Bess declare their love than Spencer is forced to flee the country. Undaunted, Bess sets out to join him. But before they're reunited they must face storms, shipwrecks, imprisonment, near-fatal injuries, false death reports, merciless Spanish pirates, duplicitous Oriental tyrants, greed, lust, and hypocrisy.

The Fair Maid of the West, written in two parts by Thomas Heywood in 1604 and 1631, is typical of the sword-and-cloak genre, best known to contemporary audiences through such films as Captain Blood and The Three Musketeers, Star Wars and the Indiana Jones movies. And this CT20 Ensemble production, adapted and directed by Kevin Theis with fight choreography by Ned Mochel, revels in swashbuckling spectacle. Yet even when swinging on a rope or dueling, the 14 actors remain steadfastly in character. Sara Nichols makes a valiant and compassionate Bess, and Mochel is gallant (if sometimes impractically overemotional) as Spencer. Matt Kozlowski's swaggering Roughman, Ted Koch's no-nonsense Goodlack, and Matthew Maher's comic servant Clem provide able support. Martial music and a nautical set contribute to the romantic larger-than-life fantasy.

Though Theis's adaptation, which telescopes Heywood's two-part tale into a single story, could use some paring in the second act, this Fair Maid of the West emerges as a PG feast of thrills and chills to match any special-effects-laden, X-rated Lucas/Spielberg circus.

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