Chicago Theater Review: THE JEWELS (TUTA Theatre Chicago at the Storefront Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on March 29, 2014

in Theater-Chicago


Now playing at Chicago’s downtown Storefront Theatre, The Jewels, TUTA Theatre’s world premiere adaptation of a story by Guy de Maupassant, is not to be confused with The Necklace, the masterpiece by this “French Chekhov” (or “French O. Henry” for that matter). That gem from 1884, with its bittersweet twist of an ending, is La Parure, the story of a vain woman who destroys her life to replace her loss of the title bauble, lent to her by a frivolous rich lady. Only when she’s virtually a bag lady in a Parisian park does the once vainglorious woman discover that the necklace was paste all along.

Jeff Duhigg (left), Layne Mazer (middle), Nicole Tuthill (right) in TUTA Theatre Chicago's THE JEWELS.

No, an exercise in attitude and role reversal, The Jewels is rightly less well known. Here, Maupassant tries the opposite trick. Bijoux that are presumed to be fake turn out to be quite the opposite for middle-aged Rene Lantin, an obscure flunky who detests art as idle make-believe, and younger Emily Dubonnet, his extraverted, theater-loving wife: After Rene’s social-butterfly spouse dies of pneumonia, her earrings, necklaces, pendants and broaches turn out to be worth thousands of francs, and possibly presents from a wealthy admirer or seducer.

Carolyn Molloy (Left) and Layne Manzer (Right) in TUTA Theatre Chicago's THE JEWELS.

Retroactively jealous but also giddy with this gift from the grave, the now nouveau riche husband becomes a glad-handing man-about-town, ironically just as much an extrovert as his wife ever was. In a sort of precious payback, Rene’s second wife, who despises the umbrella lovingly given Rene by his lost one, is just the horrid helpmate that money CAN buy.

Lauren Demerath (Left) and Layne Manzer (Right) in TUTA Theatre Chicago's THE JEWELS.

It’s not much of a reversal on which to hang director/adaptor Kirk Anderson’s highly stylized, sometimes overly arch, 90-minute adaptation, that isn’t helped by a silly, pointlessly annoying subplot about a broken bird that’s adopted by a girl, with tragic results for both. Anderson inexplicably moves the action to the 1920s, surrounding the main couple with caricatured automatons of Parisian life. Layne Manser’s “king of clerks” is affecting enough as the deeply devoted husband whose mysteriously socializing wife (mercurial Carolyn Malloy) has secrets that only two jewelers (Ryan Czerwonko and Sean Ewert) can expose. His doofus colleague Alfred (Max Lotspeich) functions well as a romantic foil for Rene’s dour domesticity. Nicole Tuthill plays Rene’s second wife.

Layne Manzer (center) in TUTA Theatre Chicago's THE JEWELS.

The recommended results, creditable stereotypes in search of a stronger plot, are good enough for lovers of Maupassant–but not so sterling to make anyone forget The Necklace, now even more overdue for a revival.

photos by Anthony La Penna

The Jewels
TUTA Theatre Chicago
Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph Street
scheduled to end on April 27, 2014
for tickets, call 800-595-4TIX (4849) or visit
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