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The Canterbury Tales

a Comedy
by Geoffrey Chaucer

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4251

SHOWING : May 03, 2012 - May 27, 2012



Join us for a medieval romp through boisterous and bawdy olde England. Drawing on the Celtic British influences of Geoffrey Chaucer's writing, this hilarious adaptation reintroduces the tales in forms ranging from classical to spaghetti Western! We’re bringing back all your favorite tales.

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Back on the bus
by Lady Mac
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The Shakespeare Tavern's current production is nearly identical to the production before last (the intermediate version contained an additional skit, which, sadly, is dropped this time around -- and it was lovely).

In the interest of recycling and energy conservation, I will post below my previous review, with the pieces that differ (such as a reference to Shakespeare that didn't occur in this year's version) removed. Also, it should be noted that this year's cast replaces Laura Cole, Amee Vyas and Mike Niedzwiecki with (respectively) Veronika Duerr, Rachel Frawley and Matt Nitchie. All perform the roles more than capably.

Otherwise, see below:

**** Begin recycled review ****

The Shakespeare Tavern has brought back its popular Chaucer adaptation that delighted audiences last year. If — after you have heard and taken seriously the warning that this is not a show for the easily offended (although nothing in it is anything worse than you’d see on network television) — you think you’d like to join the adventure … get on the bus!

The tales develop as a group of pilgrims on a “tour bus” share stories to amuse, skewer or outdo their fellow passengers. The pilgrims act as storytellers as well as characters in the stories, with assistance from numerous costume changes and several puppets that almost become a second cast in themselves (particularly Chaucer and, of course, the bus).

Like a good episode of “Saturday Night Live,” this incarnation of “The Canterbury Tales” contains enough brilliant and hilarious moments and strong “skits” to more than cover the slower parts or weaker stories. And the cast is so strong and interacts so well that you’ll be willing to excuse anything that may seem to go too far or cause you to scratch your head a little.

Unfortunately, the tale that I liked least when I saw this production last year remains the opening tale this year. “The Miller’s Tale” feels too long and is the most distasteful of the tales — as well as the most potentially offensive (primarily to Catholics and Italians … and maybe carpenters) — though it does have a few shining bits, including an entertaining, short riff on “The Godfather.”

On the other hand, fortunately, the strongest and best of the tales from last year also returns. “The Pardoner’s Tale,” which wraps up the first act on a very high note, is one of the tales with a clear moral to the story — appropriately (in this Catholicism-heavy context) reflecting one of the seven deadly sins (greed — other tales touch on pride and lust). Anyone who enjoys a story with a good twist will love this one. It’s also got some of the best language and social commentary, as the pardoner begins the story with an explanation of how guilt-ridden people are easily duped into falling for his religious scams. (“They always have — and they always will.”)

“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” … Perhaps the best explanation comes at the end, when a clearly intoxicated nun telling the story is reveling with Chaucer. At any rate, the dance sequence with Mike Niedzwiecki as the very colorful rooster and Rivka Levin as his soulmate chicken is absolutely hilarious and hysterically choreographed. Levin’s chicken outfit is stunning — perhaps the sexiest bird outfit ever — and the new, wing-flapping chicken puppets are wonderful. The tale goes all over the map, with a very odd detour regarding two men who cannot find hotel rooms and run into bad dreams and criminals, but the image of the dancing fowl will be what stays with you!

At the performance I saw, Maureen Yasko was handling all the roles played by Laura Cole and was doing an admirable job of filling Cole’s shoes (tall order, considering Cole’s status as a legend at the Tavern). She was a very capable fill-in and another testament to the Tavern’s increasing reputation for grooming and introducing new talent. In fact, most of this cast are graduates of the Tavern’s apprentice program.

If you’re up for — as the playbill describes it — “a tour on the wacky side: puppets, hijinks and bawdy jokes included,” don’t miss this trip! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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