The White Princess | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The White Princess

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THE WHITE PRINCESS, Alchymia Theatre. If you're going to mount a verse drama you've got to be mindful of the text. In their inaugural production, Rainer Maria Rilke's turn-of-the-century The White Princess, the members of Alchymia prove mindful to a fault. Originally written for Rilke's friend Eleonora Duse, though she never got around to performing in it, this moody meditation on innocence and experience pits the stoic, weary White Princess, who's aching for the return of her long-absent husband, against her fawning younger sister, who's fairly bubbling over with adolescent hormones. They muse in an idyllic garden by designer Rick Paul about love and death and dreams and occasionally drape themselves along a fountain.

Unfortunately, director Scott Fielding's cast handle the enigmatic text with the humorless reverence ordinarily reserved for a funeral mass. Curiously, they also speak at almost half speed, with the cadence of foreign-language instructors presiding over a particularly inept class. Their delivery is clear, but the sluggishness keeps the momentum and the relationships from developing, leaving the actors staring glassy-eyed above our heads for much of the evening. --Justin Hayford

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