Once upon a time, long, long ago, theater was not drab kitchen-sink family dramas or Mamet-like brute realism. It was fantastical. It was carnivalesque. It was theatrical. Commedia dell’Arte, the spectacular stage tradition that flourished in Italy and France from the Renaissance onward, featured outlandish characters, magical settings, elaborate costumes and incredible masks. These days Commedia dell’Arte is rarely performed, being, among other things, far more difficult and costly to mount than bare-staged modern dramas. But this fall, UMKC’s theater department gives us a glimpse into the fabulous past with The King Stag, Carlo Gozzi’s 18th-century fairy tale. Set in an enchanted forest, this fanciful frolic tells the tale of a powerful magician, a good king, an evil prime minister, silly servants and, of course, true love. The spell, which took effect October 25, continues tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow at 2 p.m. It’s at the Spencer Theatre (4949 Cherry, 816-235-6222). Tickets cost $15; see umkc.edu/theatre.
Sat., Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 31, 2 p.m., 2010