Why do we consider fairy tales a children’s realm? The not-for-kids (due to its maturity and complexity) Ondine, Frenchman Jean Giraudoux’s 1938 fantasia by The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, splendidly proves that magical allegories can be entertaining and meaningful for adults.
The eight-year-old company’s first guest director, Aaron Cromie, maintains the playfully absurdist IRC aesthetic nurtured by founder Tina Brock in shows ranging from European classics like Franz Kafka’s The Castle and Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs to modern works like Charles Mee’s Paradise Park.
From Lisi Stoessel’s storybook sets and Adriano Shaplin’s atmospheric sound to Jill Keys’ colorfully bohemian costumes and Cromie’s clever puppets and cutouts, Ondine shimmers with impish delight. So does Ama Bollinger as the water sprite title character, a hyperactive beauty whom knight errant Hans, played with stiff-spined commitment by Andrew Carroll, instantly loves.
Inconveniently, Hans is already betrothed to mere mortal Bertha (Sarah Knittel), causing all sorts of humorous problems at court.The Illusionist (Susan Giddings) must conjure key future scenes to reveal the triangular relationship’s inevitable arc.
Giraudoux’s script bogs down in debate — particularly in Act III’s sham trial — but Cromie’s 11-actor ensemble, featuring Brock’s aged king, Robb Hutter’s supercilious Lord Chamberlain and other IRC stalwarts, keep the action swirling around Bollinger’s Ondine, a childlike force of nature. Giraudoux’s musings about our relationship with the natural world’s mysteries elevates Ondine above absurdist playfulness.
Through March 2, $20-$22, Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 825 Walnut St., 215-285-0472, idiopathicridiculopathyconsort
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