"The Fairy Queen" Review- Chicago Opera Theater and Culture Clash revise Purcell and Shakespeare

On November 5th, 2016, Chicago Opera Theatre (COT) opened its English language two act version of Henry Purcell’s "Fairy-Queen”, 1692, renamed “The Fairy Queen”, a not-so-subtle allusion to the show’s pandering to sexual pandering- at the restored Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan, for a limited run through November 13th. Directed by Andreas Mitisek, the modern production is no credit to the company or to the original works of art.

Alexandra Martinez and Marc Malamot

The audience was advised, before the curtain rose, that all but certain sections had been completely renovated. The newly restored theater was comfortable and attractive, and should have been a good setting for a revival of a Restoration/Shakespeare inspired masterpiece. However, before long it became apparent that COT and “Culture Clash”- an apt name for the California-based group who conceived this parody- would have done better to finish the reconstruction instead of spending funds on this botched and ill-conceived effort.

Alexandra Martinez and Cedric Berry

The show is an attempt to wed a raunchy script with a Rohypnol-type date drug in a Las Vegas strip club setting to the glorious original music and bawdy Thomas Betterton crafted score. It wasn’t just the concept that went wrong, however. There was no fidelity either to the original and beloved William Shakespeare wicked romantic/mystical comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, upon which the opera-story was loosely based, or to Purcell’s five masques. Finally, the script was silly and clumsy, the physical humor insultingly base- Puck gets amorously and lengthily skewered in the rump by a barstool?!

Marc Malamot and Cedric Berry

The score, played using antique instruments, although a bit too soft for the size of the hall, was very nicely played- how could it have been else with a conductor like Jory Vinicour at the helm of The Haymarket Opera Orchestra? The stagecraft was certainly lush and clever. And, it was more than competently sung by a talented fifteen- member cast including Marc Molomot,  Kimberley Jones, Cedric Berry, Ryan Belongie, Scott Brunscheen, Alexandra Martinez, Darryl Taylor and Roberto Gomez.

Ryan Belongie and Alexandra Martinez

Indeed, if one could’ve closed one’s eyes and blotted out the hijinks, it would’ve been enjoyable. Instead, the action on stage actually elicited groans rather than sympathy or the collective concerted laughter the creators surely sought and expected. It’s not recommended.

The Cast of "The Fairy Queen"

See information for other adventurous Chicago Opera Theatre  productions.      

All photos courtesy of Liz Lauren

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