The Enchanted | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Enchanted 

THE ENCHANTED, Simple Theater, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Even in translation (by Maurice Valency), the mercurial language of Jean Giraudoux's 1933 confection delights. Aptly enchanting, the script plays deft variations on the theme of life and death.

Isabel, a schoolteacher in a provincial French town, finds herself seduced by the ghost of a murderer--aided by the sympathetic village doctor, she wants to learn from the handsome ghost the answer to the riddle of death. The ghost, afraid that life will tarnish her spirit and innocence, wants to spare Isabel the diminishing returns of old age. But Isabel's lover--an ardent bureaucrat--hopes that his well-calibrated love will keep her aboveground. More common to ballet than theater, this clash between the claims of life and the lure of death is the perfect excuse for Giraudoux to exercise his playful theatricality: the characters whimsically opine on whether our fear of death fuels our love of life and whether the dead could outvote the living if they imprudently returned.

Laura Forbes's charming staging is true to Giraudoux's quicksilver creation, seldom spoiling the enchantment. Still, Jen Hines's Isabel could seem a bit more haunted: her healthy curiosity seems to outweigh any drive toward death. Mike Rice brings resilience and welcome sanity to the witty suitor who fights for her life.

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