Last spring two of Chicago’s best actors, Hollis Resnik and Kevin Gudahl, struck sparks as the romantic antagonists Celimene and Alceste in Charles Newell’s smart, sexy staging of Moliere’s The Misanthrope. This season the sparks have burst into a four-alarm fire in this 1992 comedy by Jacques Rampal. Positing a reunion of Moliere’s characters after 20 years–during which time she’s gotten married and he’s become a power in the Catholic church–Rampal’s verse play (directed by Newell in the world premiere of its English version) demands exceptional performers who can balance poetic formality, emotional immediacy, and psychological nuance. Returning to their roles, Resnik and Gudahl bring not only superb individual technique but a shared emotional history as artists that enriches their complex, contradictory characters. They’re pure joy to watch and listen to, especially Resnik’s Celimene, a smart and opinionated woman in a society that doesn’t value that combination of attributes. Gudahl’s Alceste, meanwhile, is an eloquent, charismatic reactionary–what a Republican presidential candidate he’d make! Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, 753-4472. Through October 22: Wednesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 2:30 and 7:30 PM; Saturday, October 14 and 21, 3 and 8 PM; no 7:30 PM show Sunday, October 22. $23-$29.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Matthew Gilson.