The Lookingglass ensemble has long enjoyed a reputation for its energetic, intensely physical, artistically adventurous brand of theater. In David Schwimmer’s seminal adaptation of The Jungle, for example, the ensemble willingly endured the sort of physical hardship–hanging upside down, doing handsprings across the stage, performing on stilts–that would have sent lesser actors screaming from rehearsal. However, it took director Mary Zimmerman, using her own adaptation of The Arabian Nights: The Book of a Thousand and One Nights, to show just how rich and seasoned an ensemble Lookingglass could be, capable of resonant, multilayered work that is both athletic and tender, experimental and coherent, dynamic and emotionally honest, visually stimulating and intellectually satisfying. Taking a handful of the lesser-known tales–i.e., those that don’t concern Aladdin, Ali Baba, or Sinbad–Zimmerman et al. have woven together an evening that is a feast for both the senses and the mind, combining the joyful carnival atmosphere of the Cirque du Soleil with the intelligence and subtle emotional gradation of Frank Galati’s more successful shows (for example, Goodman’s recent production of Good Person of Setzuan). This may sound like an exaggeration, but The Arabian Nights is as close to a total theatrical experience as I’ve seen in Chicago in a very long time. At Remains Theatre, 1800 N. Clybourn, 335-9800. Through December 20: Thursdays-Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 5 and 9 PM; Sundays, 3 and 7 PM. $10-$15.

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