Hardly anyone reads Middle English these days, so the secrets of Chaucer's 14th-century opus, The Canterbury Tales, remain largely unknown. It contains some of the loveliest passages in pre-modern English literature - your high school English teacher may have made you memorize some of them - but it also contains stories too smutty for a family newspaper. We're betting your teacher didn't mention those bits.
But it's the bawdy, funny side of Chaucer that gets an update into modern English this weekend in the Owens Community College production of Canterbury Tales. The play opens today and closes May 1. The production has a "play within a play" format, said Brian Bethune, chair of Fine and Performing Arts at the college.
"The idea of it is that it's the 25th anniversary of a Chaucer storytelling contest," he said. "It's hilariously funny. Most of it is in contemporary English. It's not your mother's Chaucer."
That said, it's not a general interest play and is not suitable for children, he added."The tales are very bawdy and very naughty."
Still, it's not exactly a late 1960s "anything goes" production, either, said director Rick Hagg.
"It's not clean, but there's no nudity," he said. "It's all innuendo; that's where all the humor lies. Will people be shocked? There might be some."
The eight cast members perform in each tale, Hagg said.
"It's been a joy for the cast," Hagg said. "It's been a real challenge for the actors, because they play everything from chickens to a horse to human characters. It's quite unusual, and a little artsy."
"Canterbury Tales" opens at 8 tonight, with showtimes at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays until May 1. The show is not recommended for children. Admission: $12. The show is at the Owens Community College's Center for Performing Arts on the main stage. Information: 419-662-2787.
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