The Play's the Thing, Court Theatre. A Broadway smash 70 years ago, P.G. Wodehouse's adaptation of Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnar's A Play in the Castle remains hugely satisfying light comedy: witty, unpretentious, cleverly constructed, and packed with delicious dialogue. Directed by Molnar's countryman Laszlo Marton and featuring some of Chicago's best classical actors, this tasty pastry depicts the effort of a playwright, Turai, to convince his young friend Albert that the passionate lovemaking Albert overheard between his fiancee, the actress Ilona, and a married man was just a scene from a play they were rehearsing. To convince Albert, Turai writes a script incorporating the lovers' purplish dialogue, then passes it off as an overripe turn-of-the-century French drama.
This is the setup for a hilarious second act, in which Ilona and her part-time playmate Almady mock their real-life misbehavior by enacting Turai's ludicrous pastiche--a deliciously ironic variation on the play within a play of Hamlet, from which Wodehouse took the title. The giddy mischief recalls his wonderful Bertie-and-Jeeves stories: John Reeger's droll, dapper Turai skewers the illicit lovers (William Brown's preening Almady and Hollis Resnick's brittle Ilona) without the heartbroken Albert ever discovering his inamorata's infidelity. Adding to the mirth are Bradley Mott as Turai's writing partner, Tony Dobrowolski as an unflappable valet, and Byron Stewart as a frantic secretary bedazzled by "the theater" though he never catches on to the real action.