The Whipping Boy | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Whipping Boy


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The Whipping Boy, Griffin Theatre Company. I wouldn't normally endorse corporal punishment, but this is one show that needs to be whipped into shape. Director Jonathan Berry's revival of a play the Griffin Theatre Company describes as one of its more successful children's productions has limited appeal, though William Massolia's stage adaptation of Sid Fleischman's children's novel The Whipping Boy features a good story and well-placed lessons for a young audience. Bratty Prince Horace and Jemmy--the boy who's punished whenever the prince does wrong, which is often--flee the palace for the woods. Chased by dim-witted villains and making friends with the common folk, the mismatched duo eventually become friends.

But the show never reaches its potential. The cast offer one-dimensional performances, never convincing us they're doing anything more than running through lines and following familiar blocking. And they need to take their characterizations up a notch and pick up the pace. Moreover, the show lacks technical polish. The prince's cape is affixed with safety pins. The zipper on the dancing bear's costume shows. Changing lights when a whipping takes place may be meant to convey something, but we don't know what. Perhaps such seriously muddled effects are the reason no one takes credit in the program for lights, costumes, or any other technical aspect of the show.

--Jenn Goddu

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