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The Canterbury Tales

a Comedy
by John Stephens

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 5325

SHOWING : August 25, 2018 - September 09, 2018



Join us for a medieval romp through boisterous and bawdy olde England. Drawing on the Celtic British influences of Geoffrey Chaucer’s writing, this hilarious adaptation reintroduces the tales in forms ranging from classical to spaghetti Western!

Tales Presented:
Miller’s Tale
Wife of Bath’s Tale
Pardoner’s Tale
Nun’s Priest’s Tale
Merchant’s Tale
Reeve’s Tale

Director Kati Grace Morton
Cast Kirsten Calvert
Cast Kirsten Chervenak
Cast Laura Cole
Cast Nicholas Faircloth
Cast Adam Daniel King
Cast Enoch King
Cast Rivka Levin
Cast Drew Reeves
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Silly Fun
by playgoer
Sunday, August 26, 2018
The theatre of Geoffrey Chaucer’s day was mostly performed as outdoor liturgical dramas or by traveling players. John Stephens’ adaptation updates the concept by having seven pilgrims to Canterbury being driven in a modern-day (imaginary) bus by a guide (Rivka Levin). Mary Ruth Ralston’s active lighting scheme immediately makes it clear that this is no "original practices" production.

Action takes place downstage of a wall on which is painted "Canterbury Tales." The set design by Jeffrey Zwartjes, John Stephens, and Troy Willis cuts out two sections of the wall to act as windows. Black curtains behind cover backstage action when the windows are opened, which happens frequently in the near-frenetic blocking of director Kati Grace Brown. The top of the wall is used as a puppet stage at various points, as 2D puppets on sticks are bobbed about to represent actions that are being described.

Jeffrey Zwartjes’ and John Stephens’ puppets get quite a workout in this production, as do Anné Carole Butler’s costumes, Rivka Levin’s music, and Sean Kelley’s sound design. It’s a delightfully kinetic production in which all elements work together. It can be a bit of sensory overload, though, especially when music is played under dialogue. While the words have been updated from Chaucer’s antiquated original, the rhyming verse can sometimes be a bit dense, and the competition from loud underscoring doesn’t aid understandability.

Six of Chaucer’s tales are told during the course of the show, each narrated by one of the pilgrims, while the others embody characters in the tales. This certainly gives the actors a chance to let their versatility shine. Most of the tales are done in one accent or another, though, which doesn’t aid understandability, and not all actors succeed equally in all accents.

Adam King does well in all his roles, transitioning between comic buffoons and the slimy Pardoner with clear distinctions. Kirsten Chervenak is also a delight, vamping and camping it up in role after role, although her role as the Merchant’s wife doesn’t give her a tale of her own. Nicholas Faircloth, as the Merchant, and Laura Cole, as the Wife of Bath, gamely take on character after character, and Kirstin Calvert has sly, humorous takes on a number of her roles, principally the Nun. Rivka Levin doesn’t have a tale of her own, but does have the prologue and lots of small roles throughout that show off her many talents. I often found Enoch King difficult to understand as the Miller and as the cock in the Nun’s Priest’s tale, but found his take on old man January in the Merchant’s Tale to be quite successful.

Kati Grace Brown has injected the Shakespeare Tavern’s wacky sense of humor into a non-Shakespearean work in "The Canterbury Tales." The jokey take on Chaucer is fun enough, but the tales themselves tend to get less interesting as the evening goes on. The gussying up of Chaucer with puppets and costumes and accents adds a veneer of silliness that tends to overwhelm the source material. Fun, yes. Silly, yes. Totally successful? Not quite. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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