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BWW Review: THE DOPPELGÄNGER (AN INTERNATIONAL FARCE) at Steppenwolf Theatre

BWW Review: THE DOPPELGÄNGER (AN INTERNATIONAL FARCE) at Steppenwolf Theatre

In Steppenwolf Theatre's world premiere of THE DOPPELGÄNGER (AN INTERNATIONAL FARCE), playwright Matthew-Lee Erlbach employs all the tricks of the genre - crashing furniture, ridiculous situations and rapid-fire wordplay - to shine a light on political corruption and socio-economic injustice. Set in the war-torn Central African Republic, the action is confined to a colonial estate mansion, beautifully designed by Todd Rosenthal and lit by Scott Zielinski. Steppenwolf ensemble member Tina Landau directs a stellar cast who portray an eclectic set of international characters.

Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight Schrute from The Office, stars in the title role(s) - wealthy British mine owner Thomas Irdley and his American doppelgänger, Jimmy Peterson. On the eve of hosting international negotiations involving copper resources, an arms deal and a military coup, Thomas falls into a coma due to an accidental dose of zebra tranquilizer. Jimmy, an overeager kindergarten teacher from Quincy, Illinois, arrives just in time to impersonate Thomas as his guests arrive. Wilson's comedic skills are on full display in this dual role, and his lightning-fast transitions between Thomas, the stuffy aristocrat, and Jimmy, the quintessential tourist, are assisted by clever staging and an oft-abused body double (Dan Plehal).

Behind the impersonation scheme is Thomas' maid, Rosie (Celeste M. Cooper), who hopes to negotiate protections for ill-treated local workers into the deal. Rosie anchors the human-interest element as she shares first-hand accounts of the sufferings of her family, community and nation. Cooper excels in these serious moments as well as in the comedic scenes. She shares the latter with an entertaining mix of house guests - a flamboyant Saudi prince (Andy Nagraj), a pretentious British ambassador (Audrey Francis), a seductive Brazilian money launderer (Karen Rodriguez), a Chinese-American tech prodigy (Whit K. Lee) and more.

The cast make the most of the humor in the script, which remains in the world of farce but takes a dark turn in the second act. The suddenness of this tonal shift drives home the more serious themes of the play. Overall, this production will make you think as well as laugh - albeit in oddly balanced proportions.

THE DOPPELGÄNGER (AN INTERNATIONAL FARCE) runs through May 27 at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60614. Tickets are available at Steppenwolf.org or 312-335-1650.

Photo credit: Michael Brosilow

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From This Author Emily McClanathan

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