Launching a new theater company in Chicago can be a risky enterprise, for sure—so many factors for success are in play, not least of which is choosing that inaugural script. So Sideshow Theatre Company’s decision to leap onto the theater scene with a new one-man show based on Dante’s “Inferno” is either marvelously ambitious, or downright self-destructive. I’m happy to say that it is certainly, solidly, the former. Playwright Walt McGough has crafted a charming and witty contemporary take on the classic work, and director Jonathan Green serves the playwright well with his energetically paced, spiraling staging. Completing the artistic triad is Matt Fletcher, delivering a truly wonderful performance as Dante—and the twenty-plus other characters he encounters along the way. Fletcher’s split-second transformations from character to character are precise and fluid, and his development of each personality is intricate and strongly defined. This is a very funny, smart and touching piece, and a great introduction to Chicago for a very exciting new company. (Valerie Jean Johnson)
At Chicago Dramatists, 1105 West Chicago, (312)633-0630. Thu-Sat 8pm/Sun 3pm. $10-$15. Through July 13.