How 2 Men Got on in the World
nytheatre.com review by David Koteles
August 19, 2006
"If we six are together, we can carry the whole world before us" speaks a character in the Grimm's fairy tale "How Six Men Got On In The World," the story from which this play's title, How 2 Men Got On in the World, is derived. This is also the lesson to be learned from the story of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the two Bavarian brothers who worked diligently together their entire lives to share the stories of their homeland with the world.
Their story begins, like so many stories do, with writers and blank paper. Paper here is not just a prop, or even a metaphor—paper is used as the set, and as the characters' imaginations, the world, and so much more. I don't want to give away too much, but suffice to say that there is some beautiful, innovative staging here (all with reams of butcher paper) that has burned images in my mind that will last (happily) for a good while. How 2 Men Got On in the World is a creative little gem of a show.
Yes, there are flaws in this production from a relatively new company, a somewhat new director, and a youthful cast—it's not a perfect play—however, everyone is clearly committed to the project, and what they've come up with is much more interesting than discussing whatever problems the piece many have. There are lovely costumes, fascinating lighting effects, unexpected flashes of color, an unswerving, enthusiastic cast, and, ah, the paper.
Just as in writing, paper is just paper without the imagination to go with it, and Emily Mendelsohn is clearly not lacking in that department. Mendelsohn, the writer and director of the piece, merrily and deftly guides her performers through this hour-long jaunt into the world of the Brothers Grimm. Using the stories of the famous duo, and the vocabularies of Viewpoints and Suzuki, Mendelsohn has taken the poetic and found a way to make it tactile. While playful in its staging, this is a show with real darkness—literal and figurative—and Mendelsohn doesn't shy away from the sinister side of the brothers' tales, the nightmares they may induce, or the transformations that can happen in the dark.
The talented, hardworking young ensemble includes two men: Dave Edson and Keith Foster as Jacob and Wilhelm, respectively; and a lovely trio of caped women: Jill Beckman, Anne Robinson, and Ariella Beth Bowden. Bowden does double duty and is credited with costume design, which bears mentioning, as the costumes are both charming and effective. The sharp lighting design by Brian Scott is also noteworthy.
When asked by his brother what his favorite story is, Wilhelm Grimm claims he doesn't have one, but says he likes all the stories because they're always about the struggle to get on. Like a good Grimm fairytale, this FringeNYC entry wll surprise and delight you, and maybe even haunt you for some time. I can't wait to see what theatrical cleverness Mendelsohn and Saga Theatre come up with next.