Sometimes, it’s good to let your hair down. So it’s nice to see the Signal Ensemble, a youthful theater company known for moving dramas, take on a sweet and simple—yet no less challenging—classic comedy of manners with little more objective than to give its audience a lighthearted romp through the clashes that ensue among the reserved and racy classes of 18th-century British society. But if playwright Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” doesn’t quite end up being the well-oiled farcical machine of comic inventiveness that director Ronan Marra directs it to be, the production is nonetheless a hard-working laugh factory that cranks out the gibes and jests regularly enough to put a smile on the face of even the most hardened cynic. Commendably, this energetic and appealing company has been directed to follow the first cardinal rule of farce at all times: play it at breakneck speed, which they do. Never is this more hilarious than during the times when a train of performers whiz by the stage as if someone had pressed the fast forward-button to make the performance resemble one of those double-time Benny Hill sketches. Thankfully, this makes up for and helps get past some of the play’s more sluggish passages, usually during the first act when Goldsmith’s long patches of exposition seem to go on forever. If the play has a hollow spot, it is in two central performances that fail to create distinct and equally appealing characterizations for the bachelor and bachelorette at the heart of the story, characters who both stoop at some level to conquer and to be conquered. Still, that this 200-year-old puerile play, whose merits lie largely as a period-piece curiosity and vehicle for deliciously bombastic performances than anything else, can still generate the laughs, says a lot for Signal Ensemble’s appealing production and vainglorious performers. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, (773)347-1350. Thu-Sat 8pm/Sun 3pm (no performance 4/16). $10-$20. Through April 29.