Ubu Raw | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Ubu Raw, Defiant Theatre at the American Blues Theatre. Earlier this year Hystopolis Productions staged a perversely inventive puppet version of Alfred Jarry's brutish play about the cowardly but gluttonous Ubu, his ambitious Lady Macbeth-like wife, and their cruel campaign to conquer Poland and bleed the country dry. Now comes Defiant Theatre with Joe Foust and Richard Ragsdale's wild, nasty, only sorta-faithful adaptation of Jarry's classic: Foust and Ragsdale have peppered Jarry's once scandalous, now rather tame, dialogue with profanity so pungent it makes Jarry's riot-provoking first line--"Shit!"--smell sweet. This intensely physical, over-the-top production is in some ways truer to Jarry's savage spirit than Hystopolis's version, thanks to Foust's balls-out direction, Jeff Jenkins and Julie Greenberg's intentionally chaotic clown choreography, and the 15-member cast. These folks leap and flip and bellow and belch their way through this circuslike, Monty Python-esque production with breathtaking disregard for their own safety, and still have energy enough at the end to throw a group temper tantrum.

It speaks volumes about Foust's gifts as a comic director that the cast members don't get so wrapped up in their many pratfalls and battle scenes that they forget to speak clearly (but not too loudly) or lose Jarry's cruel, visceral wit in all the sound and fury.

--Jack Helbig

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