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Review: Cap T presents wacky and witty tale of love

Cate Blouke
Jason Phelps and Katherine Catmull star in Cap T Theatre’s production of “There is a Happiness That Morning Is.”

It often seems like the days of literature-induced rapture are long since past (if they ever existed to begin with), so the premise of Capital T Theatre’s newest production is both charming and absurd.

“There Is A Happiness That Morning Is,” playing now through Nov. 16 at Hyde Park Theatre, uses William Blake’s poetry as the backdrop and inspiration for an amorous incident involving a pair of euphoric college professors and an audience of their students. Swept up with enthusiasm during a public reading, the two carried their ardor into an act of public copulation — and now they must apologize if they hope to keep their jobs.

In spite of the plot’s basis in exhibitionism, “There Is A Happiness” is somewhat lighter fare than the typical Cap T show — such as the more recent productions involving addiction, betrayal and bloodshed — though this play does fit into the oeuvre with its healthy dose of foul language.

Written by literary playwright, Mickle Maher, the show’s dialogue is composed in verse inspired by Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience.” The rhymed meter vacillates between clever and cloying throughout the 90-minute production, as sometimes it’s more conspicuous, and sometimes it gets tiresome. But the overarching conceit is a lot of fun, particularly if you’re fond of or even familiar with Blake.

The Chicago-based playwright uses classic literature as his starting point, crafting works that aren’t quite “adaptations,” but which will delight the soul of any bookish spectator. He also penned “Spirits To Enforce,” a re-imagining of “The Tempest,” the production of which brought Capital T an Austin Critics’ Table award for best drama three years ago.

While this show might not reach quite the same caliber, it’s nevertheless a funny and enjoyable performance.

Jason Phelps’ exuberance as Bernard (the “innocent” and optimistic half of the duo) is totally endearing — we can’t help but smile at his basking in the afterglow. His naivety and buoyancy pull us along for the ride through a detailed unpacking of one of Blake’s poems.

In contrast, Katherine Catmull’s cynicism as Ellen (the “experienced” and sardonic other half) adds much of the hilarity to the show, even if, by nature of the script’s demands, the incessant negativity of her monologues can drag things down.

With a zany twist at the end that takes the plot even further off the rails, the show offers a wacky (yet witty) evening of love and literature.

“There Is A Happiness That Morning Is”