Friday, August 10, 2007

The People's Sword in the Stone

Before it's run ends, I wanted to offer some comments on The People's Sword in the Stone. Put on by Quest Theater Ensemble, the traditional story receives a new production at the company's home base, St. Gregory the Great: a Catholic parish which has a strong relationship with the artistic community in Chicago.

Quest is a collective of local theater types who offer free performances (donations are accepted) to the community. Taking on intriguing works and giving them new twists is their forte. One of the most notable aspects of their offerings is the regular inclusion of puppetry. This creates another level of interplay and brings something interesting to reach out to audiences of all ages.

This rendition of Sword in the Stone has here a new book (by director Andy Park) and score (of Scott C. Lamps, musical director) which makes it one of the best shows from Quest which I have seen. Dealing with some serious matters of mores, strong wills, and life's consequences in a still fun, fantasaic style the piece takes us through the dramatic story line in a light spirited manner. Indeed, it is a hallmark of their group's works to often take up issues which are deep and "grown up", but in a way which is accessible and entertaining even to children in a simple way. It is refreshing to find shows which have such broad appeal.

Vincent L. Lonegran as Merlin does an excellent job weaving his magic in a believable way. Jason Bowen (managing director of Quest) plays a comic Sir Ector. The best acting was from Scott J. Sumerak as Arthur. He also has an excellent singing voice, though the extended range of his part called for more than he seemed comfortable with handling. And yet the musical writing was well enough overall for me to want to recall it by purchasing a cast recording.

Their production runs through Aug. 19 at the Blue Theater, 1609 W. Gregory.

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