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A Man for All Seasons, Spirit Expressing, at Unity in Chicago. Seeing a man stand by his principles has its appeal, especially in an election year. Ed Townley gives scholar and saint Sir Thomas More (who stood up to Henry VIII when he severed relations with the pope) all the personality that the current presidential candidates are seeking without success. Though Townley’s More never chats with Oprah or delivers a nationally televised smooch, he clearly has a human side–and his performance is better than either of the presidential hopefuls has given to date.

Director Karen Vaccaro won’t let us forget Campaign 2000. In her program note she underlines the relevance of the play’s focus on personal integrity, the public good, and what constitutes political reality. Unfortunately her efforts to update Robert Bolt’s script don’t always serve the production well. Setting one scene at Starbucks wins an easy laugh, and dressing the king (the exhilarating Josh Braaten) in a regal purple shirt and gold tie is laudable. But other little add-ons are mere distractions. Modernizing the play also undermines the roles of More’s wife and daughter: Myra Petersen and Molly Kasch both have strong scenes, but Petersen has to overcome the bitter-housewife stereotype she’s assigned while Kasch must transcend her peevish-teenager persona. And while Townley is absorbing, the other main players are less consistent. Altogether the moments of glory in Spirit Expressing’s first show are few and fleeting.

–Jenn Goddu