Redmoon first staged this show at the Steppenwolf back in 2000, and it is distinctive from many of the company’s more recent efforts which (for me, anyway) fail to convey a clear and compelling story. That’s not the case here. A solid retelling of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” has been transformed and transmuted into something contraption-y and physical. Leslie Buxbaum Danzig directs, and you can see the same schoolyard aesthetics found in her “500 Clown” shows, a kind of rompy-stompy enthusiasm coupled with real theatrical ingenuity. There are some issues with the piece that hold it back—namely its stop-start rhythm, which feels like directorial uncertainty—but it has a strange, cumulative power. An addled version of Victor Hugo (Jeremy Sher) tumbles out of a shipping crate, and he is a meddlesome fussbudget who provides the show with its only spoken text (courtesy of Mickle Maher), describing Paris, year 1482, as a place of “epic foulness” and a “city of shit.” Love that. Forget that the original story is such a downer—Danzig finds a nice balance between the tragic and the comic, including a very funny pre-coital negotiation between the gypsy Esmeralda (Katie Rose McLaughlin) and her soon-to-be-lover, Phoebus (Matt Hawkins in full horn-dog mode). The bell tower is approximated with a kind of ladder scaffolding, which sometimes seems more complicated than necessary. Prowling the cathedral is Quasimodo, played by Jay Torrence, who conveys a gamut of emotions under that mask. (Something about it, designed by Shoshanna Utchenik, brings to mind the chubby-cheeked version worn in the film “Brazil.”) I’m not always won over by mask work, but here it creates the idea of illustrations come to life—which is just the kind of stylized permutation Redmoon does best. (Nina Metz)
At Redmoon Central, 1463 W. Hubbard, (312)850-8440 ex. 111. This production is now closed.