Written by Geoffrey Chaucer. Translated by J.U. Nicholson. Starring Becky Parker, David Weinberg, Wendell Willat, Nicol Foster, Terry Lamb, and Madeline Lacques-Aranda. "The Tale of Sir Thopas and Tale of Melibee," "The Lawyer's Tale," and "The Knight's Tale" playing at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (between Powell and Mason), through Aug. 29. "The Merchant's Tale" will play Sept. 16-30 at various locations. Call 491-0818. Chaucer's great unfinished heap of manuscripts was supposed to be an English Decameron, so the troupe is damn lucky he died when he did
Anny J.' s vivid costumes consist of pointy boots, tunics, hauberks, and mail. John Geist's original music involves (mostly) unobtrusive folk tunes from Olde England, played on a synthesizer. Actors hoist goblets, tell of gaie adventures, and sometimes can't, as a result, keep from looking and sounding like a Renaissance Faire matinee. The group's determination to stage all the stories sometimes leads it into deep theatrical water; but the level of acting its members maintain, the clear translation of the verse, and the humor and energy the actors put into handing the poem-cycle back to its fictitious oral tradition make The Canterbury Tales one of the most formidable revival projects in the Bay Area.