Review “Best for Winter” (Idle Muse Theatre): Robust Storytelling

Idle Muse Theatre presents BEST FOR WINTER.

Director Evan Jackson impressively adapts works by William Shakespeare, including The Winter’s Tale, into one epic tale. His storytelling is bursting with signature Shake; a mad king, a shipwreck, mistaken identities, star-crossed lovers. Jackson engages with an almost overwhelming 16 characters. Over time, his multiple storylines are weaved together  in a satisfying circle of jealousy, betrayal, forgiveness, redemption.

The first act focuses on a love triangle. The king (played by Brian Bengtson) believes the queen (played by a noteworthy Mara Kovacevic) is cheating on him with Polixenes (played by Eric Schnitger). The initial excitement for the pending royal birth is overshadowed by Bengtson’s escalating anger. Despite Paulina (played by the fierce Elizabeth MacDougald) trying to manage the situation, Bengtson spirals out of control. His implosion results in devastation for the kingdom.

The second act takes us to a different kingdom, years later. The intensity has subsided giving way to a more playful locale and time. The royal reign of terror is absent. The common folk are making merry. Joel Thompson (Clown) and Michael Dalberg (Autolycus) lead the comedic efforts. An amusing Thompson delights with his buffoonery. A charismatic Dalberg is much more witty. Often breaking the fourth wall, Dalberg outrageously flirts and cajoles with the audience.

Lovers are again the primary story in the second half. This time, it’s the budding romance between the perky Kristen Alesia (Perdita) and a determined Brian Healy (Florizel). Although they enjoy a carefree courtship, their relationship faces challenges as parentage and identities are revealed. 

Although BEST FOR WINTER is referred to as Shakespeare ‘short’, it isn’t. It’s a full length Bard drama infused with comedy. While I did enjoy Jackson’s storytelling, the acting was uneven. There were excellent performances but there were also a couple clunky ones. In the exceptional category, Kovacevic delivers an unforgettable soliloquy. She is majestically elegant as tears roll down her face. The moment is emotionally breathtaking.       

Running Time: Two hours with an intermission

The Edge Theater Off-Broadway, a new space at 1133 W. Catalpa Ave.

Based on William Shakespeare’s “Winter Tale” and other works

Adapted and directed by Evan Jackson

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru April 21st 

Buy Tickets 

All Photos by Steven Townshend

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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