The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Tragedians of the City, at Wing & Groove Theatre. It’s 10:02 PM and I’m still stuck in the theater. I’ve spent the last two hours trying my best to pay attention while a troupe of mostly college actors slaughter Francis Beaumont’s 1607 comedy. But since they’ve paid scant attention to the text–let alone niggling matters like pacing, structure, and intelligibility–I might as well tune them out and get some writing done.

In Beaumont’s original, two rich arts patrons attending a play insist their son get a part and then demand melodramatic adventure scenes for him. Beaumont’s script parodies a number of Renaissance literary styles and satirizes the cretinous bravado of the merchant class, but director Alex Harvey merely uses this five-act work as an excuse to fuck around. Two actors sitting in the front row mouth off all night long, and the actors onstage follow their every capricious direction. The joke is good for five minutes, until you realize there’s no reason for a theater company to acquiesce to a pair of loudmouthed nobodies. Factor in overly broad acting, frantic staging, the lack of air-conditioning, and a rock-and-roll band that regularly drowns everyone else out, and you’ve got a melee performed in an oven.

The production was funded by an undergraduate research grant from Northwestern. I wonder if the university will pay me reparations for having endured it.