Review | “The Ruse of Medusa” at Facility Theatre

Review | “The Ruse of Medusa” at Facility Theatre

Pictured: Brian Shaw, Laurie Roberts, Taylor Galloway, David Cerda, and Jenni M. Hadley. Photo by Leslie Schwartz.

By Elizabeth Ellis

It’s not easy to review a wildly non-traditional theatrical piece, because if you prefer a more direct or narrative type of story, you have to surrender that preference in order to enjoy something that’s more unusual. However, a perfect opportunity to suspend a preference for traditional theatre exists now at Chopin Theatre, in Facility Theatre’s gorgeous, weird, and wonderful production of Erik Satie’s surrealist comedic THE RUSE OF MEDUSA, exuberantly directed by Dado.

Consisting of nine short scenes with music and movement to accompany the text, THE RUSE OF MEDUSA introduces the audience to the slightly dotty Baron Méduse (David Cerda) and his daughter, Frisette (Taylor Galloway); Frisette’s adoring suitor, Astolpho (Laurie Roberts); the baron’s dancing monkey, Jonas (Brian Shaw); and Polycarpe (Jenni M. Hadley), the baron’s ill-tempered valet. There isn’t a specific storyline, but what transpires is a series of funny conflicts and non-sequiturs, with fanciful movement onstage and into the audience, all backed up by a superb group of green monkey-mask-wearing creatures providing excellent and varied musical accompaniment (including piano, drums, percussion, trombone, guitars, mandolin, violin). Near the end of the show, the performers hand out eyeglasses and bowler hats to the audience and triumphantly lead them to the next space over for dancing to the disco version of MacArthur Park, and a house staff member passing out delicious snacks.

David Cerda shows that his comedic talents are not limited to his Hell in a Handbag performances, as he gives the Baron power, grace, and great good humor. As the lovers, Taylor Galloway and Laurie Roberts easily blend adoring looks and goofiness. Brian Shaw as Jonas displays his estimable physical comedy skills, and Jenni M. Hadley’s long-suffering Polycarpe easily alternates between frustration and dedication. Rounding out the cast are the excellent orchestra members Jordan Tragash, Nick Cuellar, Wilson Tanner Smith, Zach Hebert, and Sam Clapp.

The Chopin Theatre on its own offers a nostalgic glance into finery and opulence of old and grand performance spaces. Set designer Samantha Rausch takes this template and gloriously expands on it – imagine an early 20th-century literary salon by way of an opium den with a touch of gothic, rich red walls, plush antique rugs, glittering candelabra, baroque mirrors. Director Dado keeps the energy up and suppresses the easy temptation to let her actors engage in an onstage free-for-all. All the performers listen and play off each other beautifully, which helps move the show along. Kotryna Hilko’s costumes are a beautiful and functional visual treat, and Laurie Roberts’ magical choreography looks completely spontaneous and joyous.

This short play, with fantastic and constantly surprising music, is a tribute to the beginnings of the Dada movement and modern surrealist theatre, and is well worth the visit to Wicker Park.

“The Ruse of Medusa” runs through April 7. For more information visit facilitytheatre.org.

About author

Elizabeth Ellis

Elizabeth is an actor, playwright, musician, and a graduate of De Paul University. She studied theatre and improvisation at the Second City Training Center, the Actors’ Center, and at the Royal National Theatre Studio in London. Elizabeth has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tympanic Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Second City's Children's Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Bailiwick Arts Center, and London's Canal Cafe Theatre. Six of her plays have been chosen as part of the Abbie Hoffman and the Around the Coyote festivals.

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