Ondine | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Transient Theatre.

If awards were given out solely for ambition, Transient Theatre's Ondine would get a slew of them. This small Uptown company took on a monster task in resurrecting Jean Giraudoux's technically daunting three-act mythological fantasy about a knight who falls in love with an immortal water nymph. Daring for its time in content and form, Giraudoux's 1934 play uses magic tricks, experiments with linear time, and elements from ancient mythology and Christian symbolism to subvert the traditional fairy-tale format and explore the nature of love and the quest for immortality. Though Giraudoux occasionally shows his age in his depiction of idealized gender roles, his tale is consistently entertaining and moving.

Steve Tanner's adaptation of Ondine seems less a direct translation from the French than a tightening of previous translations, though it's faithfully poetic. Yet with the exception of Tom Daniel's storybook set, Bill Mann's staging just doesn't cut it. One doesn't expect masterful prestidigitators or elaborately festooned temptresses emerging from rivers, but one does hope for more than cheesy body suits, poorly applied makeup, tinkly new-age music, and mediocre performances (except Laura Ruth as a sweetly manipulative princess and Tanner as a moonstruck court poet). Deborah King as Ondine has moments of profundity in the play's second act, but she's more grating than alluring. And Coby Goss as Hans von Wittenstein, pointing his index fingers to give sorely needed emphasis to his lines, isn't a convincing knight. Still, this is a rare chance to see this unjustly overlooked play.

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