Chicago Theatre Review
Polarity Presents ‘Peer Gynt’ in New Form
By Devlyn Camp
Polarity Ensemble Theatre is currently presenting the Chicago premiere of Peer Gynt in its new adaptation by Robert Bly. Cutting the original five acts down to two, this interpretation still follows an imaginative young man who encounters surreal problems. The set by Heath Hays, in a large black box space, has an overhead boardwalk that spans across the space. It’s beautiful when the lights hit the walk and dramatic slats of light run across the faces of characters below. The production flaunts dozens of first-rate period costumes by Rachel Lambert for over fifty characters, including an impressive puppet troll toddler (designed by Angela M. Campos).
Peer’s delusions of grandeur, and then eventual satisfaction of delusions, lead to some overacting across the board. In many scenes, nearly every actor is working too hard at the heightened, poetic language and any sense of realistic character is gone. Fortunately, some of this can be overlooked seeing that Peer becomes a prince of the trolls and finds himself in bizarre, mythological situations. Young Peer, once wishing that everyone would bow to him, learns the standard lesson be careful what you wish for. The play is interesting, especially in an unfamiliar translation, and still holds the same morals of the Henrik Ibsen classic. Though with every scene waiting between lengthy monologues by Peer, it is difficult to keep interest in the tale. Perhaps they should have incorporated more creative puppetry. That puppet troll toddler really had me dazzled.
Your thoughts on the production? Was the production value better, or the performance? Comment below and let’s talk about it…
Polarity Ensemble Theatre
Through December 18th
Tickets $10-20, available at dcatheater.org
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