Bradley University Theatre's most recent offering is a new adaptation of the classic tale of the marionette who would be a boy - "Pinocchio". The BU players have produced the play in cooperation with The House Theatre, an independent Chicago theater group. Indeed, this new version was penned by Dennis Watkins, a member of The House Theatre.
This new production was promoted as a darker, more adult tale of loss and longing. Actually, it is simply more faithful to the original 19th century story that was "sweetened up" by Disney in their animated classic. No cute singing cricket here, but rather an annoying chirper that is summarily stomped to death by the wooden boy.
The play is excruciatingly slow in parts with too many periods of long silence and too much shuffling around of the large wooden set pieces (are these meant to be in the shape of question marks?). Indeed, these wooden pieces are effective in only one scene when they become the ribs of the fish that has swallowed Gepeto and Pinocchio.
One of the joys of Bradley theater has always been the youthful exuberance of the actors. This current group is no exception. These are young people who truly love theater and being on stage and it certainly shows. All of the performances here are excellent. Dean Beever does a wonderful job in the physically demanding title role. Dana Trampas is charming as Gepeto's doomed wife. Drew Gilbert's Romeo is right on target. But, the truly stand-out performance is Steve Snyder as Gepeto. It is very difficult for a young actor to convincingly portray the nuances and movements of the elderly. Mr. Snyder captures this precisely and also conveys the proper level of pathos that the role demands.
In summary, the Bradley ensemble delivers superb performances in what is essentially a mediocre play. It is well worth your while to check out this latest BU offering.