Jackie Maxwell’s smart, elegant production nails George Bernard Shaw’s masterpiece, delivering powerful messages about ideology, nationalism and reality without compromising the tongue-in-cheek humor and satire of the play. Tara Rosling makes a stunning Joan, striking a perfect balance between gravity and grace in the vulnerable leader, while other actors foil her comically and tragically, keeping the audience on its toes as they maneuver between politics, melodrama and droll humor. Shaw’s writing, tightly and exquisitely crafted, is paced as flawlessly as the best comedy, particularly in a chilling, rhetorically brilliant speech by the inquisitor at Joan’s trial. Technically sound, with an understated but graceful set that perfectly matches the timelessness of the story. “What are you to do with such a character?” someone asks about Joan’s problematic (to put it mildly) belief in her direct communion with saints that the Catholic Church declares heresy. While this question remains as ambivalent and thought-provoking throughout the performance as issues of national identity and the truth of miracles, Chicago Shakespeare certainly knew what to do with “St. Joan.” (Monica Westin)
At the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand, (312)595-5600. This production is now closed.