The Fellowship of the Ring | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Fellowship of the Ring

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The Fellowship of the Ring, Lifeline Theatre. This first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's own Ring Cycle contains more outlandish inventiveness than one could ever hope to squeeze onto a stage. But the valiant Lifeline Theatre creates a credible facsimile, effectively dramatizing hapless Frodo Baggins's dangerous quest and Tolkien's magical forests, eerie horsemen, and bloodthirsty dwarves. Cathy McCullough's wonderfully frightening puppets and Stephanie Nelson's clever, serviceable set (especially captivating during glow-in-the-dark chase sequences) are more than sufficient to lure the viewer into Tolkien's Middle Earth society.

The only trouble with this exceedingly well acted and sumptuously designed production is Kevin McCoy's adaptation. Frequent discussions of figures, locations, and events so arcane they would seem to require a scorecard or an atlas are belabored and off-putting, creating stagnant, talky sections in between the gleeful, thrilling action sequences. Failing to fully explain the geography and inhabitants of Middle Earth, McCoy makes Frodo's adventures seem less an escalating series of trials than random events and encounters that are never particularly threatening. Poor Frodo himself, though engagingly played by Alison Halstead, remains undeveloped, and thus his struggles never involve the viewer. Tolkien's tale ends up largely as diverting escapism, providing nourishment for the senses but not the intellect.

--Adam Langer

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