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How to Make a Good Impressionist
By Kathryn Ceceri

The Enchanted
By Jean Giraudoux, directed by Kevin McGuire
The Theatre Company at Hubbard Hall, through March 14

The Enchanted is sweet and airy and funny and very, very clear. There are no hidden meanings here; Giraudoux’s themes and ideas and conflicts are all out in the open for everyone to see. Isabel, the darling of a small French provincial town given charge of the girls’ school when their teacher has a baby, leads her barefoot class across a bridge to a stream straight out of Monet’s Waterlilies to study botany. Not monocots and dicots, but the language of trees and flowery metaphors that are exactly that.

Something very strange has happened to this sleepy little town. Fortune, the mayor explains to the incredulous inspector, “seems to be displaying some intelligence.” The old and the stingy are struck down, while the needy, for a change, win the lottery. The townspeople attribute this unlikely orderliness to the appearance of a ghost, believed to be the spirit of a man who pursued his wife and her lover from Paris, doing them in and then disappearing himself into the lake. The town gossips report that Isabel has been meeting this ghost, captivating the entire town and threatening to contaminate the entire country with happiness. The mundane or the ethereal? Which will Isabel choose?

Every aspect of Hubbard Hall’s production reinforces the idea that beauty and happiness are real and attainable: Hal Lemmerman’s simple set, where even the sapling trunks are dappled in Monet’s palette; the sound and music by Marianne Rahn-Erickson that signal twilight or underscore a romantic moment; the costumes by Mariah Sanford-White revealing the free- spirited nature of Isabel and her girls and the staid respectability of the city officials.

Kevin McGuire’s direction manages to be funny without crossing the line into irony. He never belittles the characters, no matter how pompous or flaky. Katie Ann McDermott as Isabel is pure but not childish; she knows what she’s about. David Girard’s Inspector displays his skeptical nature with every look and gesture. His allegiance to the concrete and the predictable lead him to declare women and ants “the same species of insect.” He transfers responsibility for the girls’ class from Isabel to the Supervisor of Weights and Measures, hoping that “one month’s discipline and you won’t be able to tell one from another.”

It isn’t until Act III that the Supervisor (Adam Jansson) makes his move, but when he does he gets one of the most interesting speeches of the play as he lays out the poetry in the life of a civil servant. The rest of the players—including McGuire himself as the amused and bewildered Mayor, Benjie White as the town doctor whose role in life (and in the play) is transition, Stephanie Moffet and Beverley Owen as the gossiping spinsters, and Tom Mattern and Kermit Westergaard as a pair of executioners—make for a colorful supporting cast. Even the bevy of independent little girls deliver their lines with great expression. My only quibble was with the Ghost (Mike Maloney), whose pale menace far outweighed the mysterious attraction he supposedly exuded to Isabel and the townsfolk.

In short, The Enchanted is positively enchanting.

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