Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chicago-based theatre company Commedia Beauregard to present new translation of "The Mandrake"

Left, Matt Beard, Lina Chambers, Arin Mulvaney and Mike Newquist. Photo by Brad Cantwell


Commedia Beauregard, a Chicago-based theatre company dedicated to producing plays in translation, is presenting a new translation of Machiavelli’s "The Mandrake." The production will run from Jan. 11 through Feb. 9 at the Raven Theatre Complex, 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago.

Tickets are available by calling 1-800-838-3006 or at In addition, there will be a Twitter Preview at 8 p.m. Jan. 10, and there will be a "Pay With Your Can" matinee at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 10. as part of a food drive to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  

Those who bring in one non-perishable food item will receive a $10 discount, and those who bring three food items will get into the show for free. Reserved tickets for January 12 are full price.

I had the chance to talk to translator and Commedia Beauregard artistic director Christopher Kidder-Mostrom as well as director Lisa Cantwell about the production.

Q - Great talking to you. In translating "The Mandrake," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 
CK - When I translated this in 2005, for a production in Minnesota, I had freshly come off a stint at Theatre de la Jeune Lune and I wanted to apply the acting methods that I learned there with the art of translation. 
Through a workshop process with eight actors we built this translation around a framework of a literal translation and physical acting.
Q - What should the audience expect? Should they expect some surprises? 
CK - A reinvented classic. The humor in the script itself is pretty brilliant. Machiavelli was actually a very funny guy, which may come as a surprise to some people, because his other writing, The Prince, is a very serious political work.
LC - This is Machiavelli's classic story adapted with a fresh, wry and witty approach by Chris. We have given it a sexy indie/alternative rock vibe using the original music, set design and costuming. 
Q - How did you go about assembling the cast for the production? How hard has it been to put on the production? 
CK - Like almost every Commedia Beauregard production, we held open auditions and we had an overwhelming response of talented actors. This cast was selected specifically by the Director, Lisa Cantwell.
LC - The wacky and wonderful cast has been a blast to work with every step of the way. They are a tremendously talented, fearless and dynamic ensemble who have really embraced these characters and made them unique and unforgettable.  

Q - I understand the production also features an original musical score. How do you think the music adds to the production?

CK - While not a complete score, the play features five original songs as intermezzi. The lyrics to the songs are completely new for this production, because the old ones featured Minnesota-specific language. 
So, with new lyrics, it was a perfect time to revisit the melodies as well. Brian Torosian has provided tunes with a heavy grunge influence which figures into Lisa's vision of the play.  

LC - The music is such an integral part of the story, and it was thrilling to work with Brian's fantastic original tracks and further develop them with Matt Beard and Lina Chambers.  

Q - I see that the Jan. 10 show will be a Twitter preview where audience members are encouraged to share their experiences. Is it important to use social media to get the word out about the production?

CK - Since coming to Chicago in 2010, all of Commedia Beauregard's productions have featured a Twitter Preview. It does help promote the production and it's a fun way to let people use their phones in a situation they normally wouldn't be allowed to. 
Normally, the Twitter Preview is one of our most popular nights.
LC - Using social media is such a fun way to get the word out about the show, and we are really excited about having this opportunity to do so. 
Q - I also see that the Jan. 12 show will feature a food drive to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Is it important for the theatre company to give back to the community?

CK - Our Pay-With-Your-Can food drive is an important part of what we do. Not only does it collect food donations for a local food shelf, but it also acts as our industry night.
Other theaters might do a discounted ticket or a pay-what-you-can night. We figured we should do some good at the same time. 
Our last Pay-With-Your-Can night brought in 275 lbs of food. 

LC - The chance to give back to the community truly enriches the whole theatrical experience and gives it that much more meaning. 
Q - Do you have any dream productions that you would like to do?

CK - Given our mission of doing translated works, there are so many choices from around the world. Most of what we've done since adopting the mission in 2006 have been plays from Europe and a couple from Latin America. 
I would love to explore plays from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa in years to come. 

LC - I am involved in developing several theatre projects right now. One is a monster story with a cinematic feel and the other is a rock musical adaptation.