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Unchaining the ‘Fawlty Towers’

TV sitcom onstage

Oct. 14, 2013
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Theatre Unchained presents a satisfying tribute to the 1970s TV sitcom Fawlty Towers. The John Cleese and Connie Booth sitcom is lovingly brought to stage in three episodes presented with two intermissions.

The coziness of the Theatre Unchained space underscores the difference between TV and live performance, maximizing the potential that can only be experienced at the theater. The crazy energy of the script is that much more intense as presented by Theatre Unchained.

The strengths of the live format aside, it would be exceedingly difficult to top the inspired comic precision of the original TV cast. The Theatre Unchained ensemble is not without its merits, however. Joe Widen plays Basil, the comically abrasive hotel owner. Much younger than Cleese when he played the character in the original TV show, Widen endows Basil with a suitably brusque vitality. The comic irritation and impatience feel that much more fiery in a younger actor.

In contrast to Prunella Scales in the TV show, Sara Pforr’s stage presence as Basil’s wife Sybil is largely sweet and without bitterness. This makes Basil’s character all the more comically caustic by contrast. James Dragolovich plays the role of the Spanish waiter Manuel and Emily Craig is impressively poised in the role of hired help Polly.

Craig and Dragolovich can be found in partial costume and out of character serving drinks between each episode. This arrangement makes for a cleverly immersive and enjoyable evening of light comedy in three courses. It’s not terribly challenging, but theater like this can be appealing.

Theater Unchained’s production of Fawlty Towers continues through Nov. 3 at 1024 S. Fifth St. For tickets, call 414-391-7145 or visit theatreunchained.com.


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