Michael Handelzalts on Witold Gombrowicz's play “Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy” and its new staging, in Ha'aretz:
The situation in Witold Gombrowicz's play “Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy,” written in Poland in 1935, is simple yet challenging: in a small European kingdom of the sort that existed in mid-20th century films, the royal family (king, queen and princess ) admires the sunset, in full view of their subjects.
The prince, on his daily stroll, has suddenly come across a young woman. She is not pretty and does not present herself as a potential princess. Ugly, hard to size up and silent, she is accompanied by an aunt who apologizes for the strangeness of her niece.
The prince, tired of meaningless rounds of courtship, is challenged by the fact that the girl, whose name is Yvonne, radiates nothing in his presence; she is the very embodiment of passivity. It appears that anything may be done with her, and he decides to marry her. Where is it written that the prince must marry a beauty?
What begins as a game and a whim takes on monstrous proportions: Yvonne, in as much as she exists at all, wants nothing, says nothing, plans nothing, and so makes everyone uncomfortable. No one knows how to approach her. After all, there can be no creature which supplies not even a hint of its own significance and its relationship to us.