Princess Turandot | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Princess Turandot 

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Princess Turandot, European Repertory Company, at the Theatre Building. Director Luda Lopatina's contemporary rendition of an 18th-century Italian adaptation of an ancient Chinese fable seems an exercise in style. But that's a pretty sterile excuse for a play--especially when the style is pastiche. It's appropriate to Princess Turandot's mixed origins but doesn't correct the real problem: is this a human Punch-and-Judy show, full of slapstick battles that hurt no one, or a morality tale about fate and the illusions of love? Because playwright Carlo Gozzi fails to decide, the work fails at both. Similarly, viewers sophisticated enough to catch the production's Niagara of cultural references--from StreetWise and the Florida recount to Hamlet, the Marx Brothers, and The Lucy Show--will be unlikely to care about the romance at its core, and those taken by the romance will be annoyed by the comic tangents and let down by the denouement.

The actors doing slapstick are capable (especially Richard Edward Frederick as chief eunuch Truffaldino, the best effeminate clown since Richard Dreyfuss as Richard III in The Goodbye Girl). But even slapstick requires a plot's forward movement. The actors playing it straight--including Andrew Rothenberg, Jennifer Kern, and Laura Scott Wade as the prince, the princess, and the princess's rival--are appealing but have little to work with until the second act. It's a shame European Repertory has chosen to sacrifice their efforts, as well as meaning and audience pleasure, to a mere display of style.

--Kelly Kleiman

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