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The World Over at The State Theatre

Published on 25th October 2011

★★☆☆☆

The State Theatre. By Keith Bunin. Dir. Tim Speicher. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 25mins; one intermission.

This 2002 work seems an odd departure for Keith Bunin, a playwright best known for psychological realism in pieces like The Credeaux Canvas and The Busy World Is Hushed as well as his work on HBO’s In Treatment. This attempted epic, with dozens of characters and locations, plays like a blend of Candide and The Princess Bride. Protagonist Adam (Daniel Gilbert), discovered orphaned on a deserted island, hears a tale about the lost prince of the kingdom of Gildaroy and comes to believe he’s the prince, even though he’s assured the whole thing is nothing but a children’s story. Undeterred, Adam sets out on a hero’s journey to find a kingdom he’s repeatedly told doesn’t exist.

Along the way, Adam solves riddles and slays mythical creatures; he also gains an adoring wife who bears twins, but his single-minded quest for Gildaroy causes him to lose his family. Bunin’s moral, it seems, is not to let fairy-tale perfection be the enemy of the good, but the playwright takes a half-dozen detours too many on his way there. Tim Speicher’s production is appealingly lo-fi, with a story-theater aesthetic mixing seven barefoot actors with stylized projections, props and impressive puppets built of cardboard and packing tape. Yet his lethargic scene transitions repeatedly take the wind out of the sails, and the cast members tend too broad, with an overreliance on funny accents.—Kris Vire

Time Out Chicago issue no. 348, Oct 27–Nov 2, 2011