The Hypocrites at the Den Theatre. Adapted and directed by Sean Graney. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 20mins; no intermission.
Theater review by Kris Vire
The Hypocrites add to their thoroughly delightful revisionist repertory of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas with the launch of H.M.S. Pinafore. Matching the playful spirit of his takes on The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado (both of which return, alternating performances with Pinafore), adapter-director Sean Graney starts by reversing the genders of the G&S original.
The Pinafore is now, er, womanned by a crew of "sailresses" (Kate Carson-Groner, Emily Casey, Christine Stulik and Lauren Vogel in silly, frizzy wigs), who pine over Joseph (Doug Pawlik), the dreamy son of Captain Cat Coran (Casey again). The captain plans to marry her son off to Admiral Dame Jo-Ann (Stulik again), but Joseph falls for new sailress Ralphina Rackstraw (Dana Omar). Can true love win over the strictures of the British class system?
As with the two prior shows, Pinafore is performed in immersive promenade, with audience members free to roam the set throughout, mixing with the cast or claiming perches in the sailors' bunks or the central "pillow pit" (though in the repertory's new venue at the Den Theatre, there's much more off-set seating provided for those who'd prefer not to promenade). The pillows are no accident—the whole aesthetic here is slumber-party chic, with costume designer Alison Siple outfitting the actors in wildly patterned pajamas to counter the circus-themed Mikado and beach-party vibe of Penzance.
As always, the actors provide their own accompaniment on folky instruments like guitar, banjo, ukulele, woodwinds and accordion; the new arrangements by Matt Kahler and Andra Velis Simon are a homespun delight. Do yourself a favor: Escape the Chicago winter for an hour and a half by setting sail with this giddily joyful voyage.