The Mikado at the Hypocrites: Theater review

The Hypocrites' joyously immersive Gilbert and Sullivan circus returns for a second giddy go-round.

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Kate Carson-Groner, Erik Schroeder, Jim DeSelm, Robert McLean and Zeke Sulkes in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Jim DeSelm and Emily Casey in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Kate Carson-Groner in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Emily Casey in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Shawn Pfautsch in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Dana Omar, Robert McLean, Emily Casey, Jim DeSelm, Erik Schroeder, Kate Carson-Groner, Matt Kahler, Zeke Sulkes and Christine Stulik inThe Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Emily Casey and Shawn Pfautsch in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Christine Stulik, Jim DeSelm, Shawn Pfautsch and Dana Omar in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Dana Omar, Emily Casey and Christine Stulik in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Zeke Sulkes and Shawn Pfautsch in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Shawn Pfautsch and Emily Casey in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

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Photograph: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Robert McLean, Matt Kahler and Zeke Sulkes in The Hypocrites' 2013 production of The Mikado at the Steppenwolf Garage

Joining Hypocrites founder Sean Graney's 2010 adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance as part of a growing company repertoire, Graney's romping edit of The Mikado returns after debuting last holiday season—and this edition feels even giddier than the last.

The balloon-laden, carnival-like setting (by which Graney steers clear of Gilbert and Sullivan's most egregious Orientalist leanings) shifts this year to the Steppenwolf Garage, whose completely open layout (free of the Chopin Theatre basement's sightline-blocking support pillars) makes the promenade staging feel that much more airy and inviting. Most of the cast of ten actor-musicians returns from the original production—Jim DeSelm and Kate Carson-Groner are the sole newbies—and the ensemble is tigher than ever. 

Many of The Mikado's cast members have also been a part of The Pirates of Penzance's many incarnations, including three winters at the Chopin, two summer runs at Boston's American Repertory Theater and an upcoming January slot at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the familiarity and comfort that comes with that kind of extended association is palpable: a remarkable mix of looseness and trust. 

The terrific likes of Matt Kahler, Rob McLean, Zeke Sulkes and Christine Stulik display a confidence in one another that allows them to improvise here and there as warranted by their interactions with the audience. Shawn Pfautsch and Emily Casey's comedic chops have only improved in their respective dual roles as Nanki-Poo/katisha and Yum-Yum/the Mikado. And whether it's better acoustics and sound tech in the Garage or music director Andra Velis Simon and the cast upping their games, the Hypocrites' musicianship has never sounded better.

 

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