"Intoxicating..." - L.A. Weekly
have done it again!" - L.A. Actorsite
BACKSTAGE WEST Critics Pick!
Sure, we all know the stories of Hansel
and Gretel and Cinderella, but what about Godfather Death and The Jew
Among the Thorns? The stories in Grimm! are not sanitized Disney
versions of well-trodden fairy tales. They are nine delightful, obscure,
at times funny, at times disturbing, original Grimms' tales, unearthed
from the archives of the German brothers' writings and richly adapted to
the stage by the Sacred Fools Theater Company.
-- Angela Phipps Towle
GRIMM! is a two-act staging of selected works from the Brothers Grimm. The Sacred Fools company scores points just for mounting a show in which 10 different directors and writers take dramaturgical risks — whether it be working with a story bereft of any clear ending (and for that matter, moral) or taking more traditionally structured stories into new terrain. But aside from the project’s novelty, most of the playlets also work well. “The Cat & Mouse in Partnership” is a tale of two rivals learning to live with each other, which director Jessica Schroeder and adapter Joshua Rebell turn into a blues-scored commentary on modern relationships. “A Thing Called Moon,” about a group of travelers stealing Luna, is told through a performance dance piece adapted into song by Brenda Varda and directed by Mark T.J. Lifrieri. Ben Davis stages the evening’s intoxicating, supernatural closer, “Godfather Death” — adapted by Haynes Brooke and creatively staged. John Rosenfeld as Death keeps the piece grounded with his compassionate portrayal of the Reaper. Though some of the pieces feel underrehearsed, the evening engages, aided by live music composed and directed by Varda.
-- Luis Reyes
Way back in the 18th century, long before the invention of the "happy ending," brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected folk tales for children that often doubled as lessons in morality -- with dark themes that can seem startling to a modern audience.
Snow White and Cinderella can thank the Grimms for making them household names, but the prolific brothers also published a number of tales which the hand of time has not been as kind to. Nine of those lesser-known stories have been adapted for the stage for the Sacred Fools' Grimm!
The evening begins with a spoken/sung introduction by keyboardist Brenda Varda, whose small orchestra provides wonderful accompaniment throughout the show. (Varda also composed all of the program's music.)
"The Fisherman and His Wife" is the first of the stories, with a hysterically funny John Wuchte as an enchanted flounder who can grant wishes, and Jay Harik as a fisherman whose wife just can't get enough of the fish's magic.
In "The Willful Child," the versatile Bruno Oliver makes the first of several appearances, here as the somber narrator of a tale in which a little girl (Laura Esposito) dies and is buried -- only to have her arm keep reaching up through the ground. Her mother (Tara-Beth Conolly) provides the surprisingly simple solution: Whack it off with a stick. The playlet makes clear that not all of the Grimm's stories have a clear "moral" attached to them (a criticism leveled against them when they were first published).
"The Cat and Mouse in
Partnership" is a clever adaptation of a tale in which a feline and
The short & sweet "The Old Man and His Grandson," is the only story I was previously familiar with. Author Erik Atwell's twist at the end defines the term "comedy."
"The Turnip" is an epic of sorts, in which Mikhail Blokh is a poor man who grows an extraordinary vegetable -- and receives a great reward from the king (Jay Harik). The extraordinary Bruno Oliver is his rich brother who hatches a plan to get even.
Blokh returns in "The Jew Among the Thorns" as a man who discovers an enchanted creature (Laura Esposito) who gives him a violin with magical powers. As the title implies, the piece is ultra-un-P.C., but it's an example of the kinds of prejudices that were prevalent in less enlightened times.
"A Thing Called Moon" is a beautiful musical/dance piece written by Brenda Varda, about stealing the moon. The bizarre "Tales About Toads" has Erynn Dalton as a little girl and Laura Esposito performing a charmingly funny toad puppet who's trying to get her to eat... or... something like that. Perhaps something has been lost in the translation (or maybe LSD has been around a lot longer than previously thought), but it's still funny even if it doesn't make much sense.
"Godfather Death" is the ominous closer, in which John Williams plays a father who is looking for a godfather for his newborn son. He encounters God and the Devil, but decides on Death (a positively creepy John Rosenfeld). I'm not sure which is more disturbing: Rosenfeld's portrayal of the Grim Reaper, or the fact that this ultra-macabre story comes from a collection titled Nursery and Household Tales.
The Fools have done it again. Check it out -- and maybe have a nightlight ready for sleeping afterward.
-- Kevin Delaney