The Wild Duck | Museum of Contemporary Art | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

The Wild Duck The Short List (Theater) Recommended Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 15 2009

Henrik Ibsen was the worst kind of scold--a Scandinavian Protestant-hating Scandinavian Protestant whose plays are grimly righteous attacks on the hypocrisies of a grimly righteous bourgeois culture. Right? Well, that's what I thought until I saw this high-energy Court Theatre production of his 1884 play about two families bound by some ugly secrets. The basic story has the quality of a dark moral fable: innocents pay when the crimes of a rich, socially respectable old man start coming to light. But as directed by Charles Newell from a new translation by Richard Nelson, there's a wry Chekhovian comedy to the telling. Hell, there's a Kaufman-and-Hartian comedy at times, one of the central families bearing a surprising resemblance to the pixilated Sycamores of You Can't Take It With You. The philosophical tenor is atypical for Ibsen, too. Things end badly, of course, but the playwright lets down his progressive dukes to some extent and allows as how certain kinds of hypocrisies--even outright lies--can have the quality of mercy. The most rigorously honest character here is also the most destructive. Mary Beth Fisher is absolutely indispensable to the success of Nelson and Newell's approach, as a long-suffering wife who keeps it together with loving but very dry irony. --Tony Adler

Price: $32-$60