This month, Philly’s favorite absurdist company Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium revives Jean Giraudoux’s THE ENCHANTED (1933) at the Walnut Street Theatre.
An atmospheric satire braided with a midsummer-night’s-dream fable, the play is about a charming young woman Isabel (played with pep and conviction by Anna Lou Hearn) enamored with a ghost whose free-spirited poltergeist shakes up bourgeois decorum of a sleepy French town. The town is topsy-turvy and all is out of joint—at least in the eyes of the town’s notables like the Mayor (given proper dose of jaundice by Melissa Amilani) and the Supervisor of Weights and Measures (John D’Alonzo).
“In the community it is no longer respectable to be unhappy,” complains the Doctor (the magisterial Jane Moore) to the bombast Inspector (performed to perfection by David Stanger) sent by the government to establish order. Women leave their husbands for more attractive men. Dogs no longer fawn on abusive owners. Mistreated children run away from home and – worse! – the lottery no longer goes to the town’s millionaire and is won by the poor. The dreamy, idealistic Isabel must choose between the ethereal love of a Ghost (Daniel Barland) promising immortal knowledge and the life-affirming ardor of the Supervisor for whom death is no more than “the next step after pension.”
Tina Brock’s direction is faithful to the original, and her use of Muppet-like puppets cast as the little girls is a refreshing, burlesque expedient. The play was scheduled well before the nation awoke to see a foul-mouthed casino man in the Oval Office, but the choice of the play is eerily prophetic in hindsight. When the Inspector exorcises the ghosts by spewing hate on the otherworldly aliens and undesirables—who, if allowed to stay, “would be natives of France, and therefore entitled to all the rights and privileges of citizens, including the right to vote”—he promises to bar their entry “under the penalties provided for cases of illegal immigration.” Fortunately, there is love, magic and Muppets to save the day from the Inspector’s imminent “established democracy”.
[Walnut Street Theatre, Studio 5, 825 Walnut Street] February 7–March 5, 2017; idiopathicridiculopathyconsortium.org.