OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare ready to welcome 'Tristan & Yseult' to the stage

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-03-01T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare ready to welcome 'Tristan & Yseult' to the stageBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Direct from what's been a whirlwind of international acclaim, the performance company Kneehigh and their telling of "Tristan & Yseult," billed as "a theatrical force of nature that combines vibrant storytelling with breathtaking spectacle, set to a rich musical tapestry of original songs and familiar scores performed by a roving ensemble of musicians," is coming this month to Navy Pier in Chicago.

Lauded internationally for its trademark vitality, the artistic collective, Kneehigh makes its long-awaited Chicago debut at Chicago Shakespeare Theater with the iconic work that first catapulted the company to international fame. "Tristan & Yseult" plays a limited run March 30 through April 13 in CST's Courtyard Theater.

Marrying gorgeous music and ingenious staging with cheeky humor and Wagnerian intensity, Kneehigh re-imagines an age-old tale of forbidden love and betrayal: the story of Tristan and Yseult.

Cornish King Mark attempts to maintain order, even in the midst of a war, by ruling with his head, not his heart. But he does not expect to fall head over heels for his enemy's sister, Yseult, and cannot anticipate the love that blooms between the beautiful Yseult and enigmatic Tristan.

"As the story unfolds, I realize there is not one person in that audience who doesn’t profoundly recognize something in the situation: to love someone that you shouldn't, to betray someone you love, to be betrayed, to be left and, most painful, to be unloved," Director and adapter Emma Rice said.

"This suddenly is not an epic tale of grand romantic love, held at arm's length from our own experience, but a tender unraveling of love in all its beautiful and painful forms. These are at the heart of this production, because, if we have all known love, we have also known the opposite."

Inventive and spirited, Kneehigh is renowned for its unique brand of wonder-filled ensemble storytelling. Hailing from Cornwall, England, the company has originated such runaway hits as The Wild Bride and Brief Encounter. Kneehigh has left their mark internationally from London's National Theater and the Sydney Festival, to the Royal Shakespeare Company and Broadway's Studio 54. Chicago Shakespeare Theater welcomes Kneehigh as part of CST's World’s Stage series, which brings the best of the world's theater to Chicago and CST productions to stages around the globe.

"Tristan & Yseult" is directed and adapted by Rice with writers Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy. The production features an ensemble of eight performers: Carly Bawden (Whitehands), Gareth Charlton (Lovespotter/Brute/Animator), Andrew Durand (Tristan), Stuart Goodwin (King Mark), Craig Johnson (Brangian/Morholt), Giles King (Frocin), Róbert Lučkay (Lovespotter/Brute/Animator) and Etta Murfitt (Yseult). Live music composed by Stu Barker is performed by Russ Gold, Pat Moran, Ian Ross and Lizzy Westcott. The creative team includes Music Director Ian Ross, Designer Bill Mitchell, Lighting Designer Malcolm Rippeth and Sound Designer Gregory Clarke.

Tickets start at $60 or there are $20 tickets for patrons under 35 years old. All patrons receive a 40 percent discount on guaranteed parking in Navy Pier garages. FYI: or (312) 595-5600.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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