Chicago Theatre Review
Lightning Strikes Twice for Hypocrites’ Dazzling ‘Burning Bluebeard’
Burning Bluebeard – Hypocrites
In its world-premiere staging at Theater Wit, the Ruffian’s “Burning Bluebeard” was among Chicago’s most fiendishly original works, a play that, while harkening back to old vaudeville, successfully merged historical fiction, literary nonfiction, magical realism, clowning, puppeteering, rapping, and several other theatrical forms to tell the story of the 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire, which occurred during a sold-out performance of the musical “Bluebeard” and killed 600 of the audience members – and remarkably, the Ruffians’ new staging of the show, presented by The Hypocrites at Wicker Park’s Den Theatre, is just as sharp, inspiring, and flat-out hilarious as the original.
Featuring all but one of the original production’s cast members, “Burning Bluebeard” covers an enormous range of material in its 100 minutes. Through song, dance, monologue, and very fun interactions with the audience, the play explains such matters as the layout of the Iroquois Theatre, and how that contributed to the fire’s high death toll; the hilariously bad (and racist) nature of the “Bluebeard” musical; and the compelling characters who acted with their best intentions as the fire took shape. And most remarkable of all, what begins as a wry, almost whimsical treatment of the fire slowly morphs into a truly moving testimony of its horror.
There are many seasonal offerings in Chicago theatre, but one would be hard pressed to experience one more fulfilling that “Burning Bluebeard.”
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Running through Jan. 10, presented by The Hypocrites at Den Theatre, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave
Tickets are available by visiting http://www.the-hypocrites.com/.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.