Sisters Grimm: Fables of the Stage
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 24, 2013
Brandon Schraml and Bricken Sparacino in a scene from Sisters Grimm
Looking for some delightful, good-natured fun at this year's FRIGID? Then I suggest you take in Sisters Grimm: Fables of the Stage, a delicious pairing of short plays by Amy E. Witting and Bricken Sparacino that will tickle your funny bone and perhaps other areas as well.
What's the show about, you ask. Well, note the preposition in the title: these are fractured fairy tales ABOUT life on the wicked stage. The first one, "Jack and the Giant," takes place at an audition for a new show based on "Jack the Beanstalk." We meet two of the actors waiting to be seen—a fellow named Jack who knows this will be his big break, and who has all the Method/Meisner/You-Name-It training in his kit bag to back him up; and another fellow named Giant who seems to be, um, a Giant. Witting mines the comic possibilities pretty thoroughly, and, under Sparacino's direction, Bill Bria and Derby Thomas make both of these make-believe characters convincingly hilarious.
The second, longer piece is "Pointy the Starfish." The place is a children's matinee; we in the audience play the kids who are hoping to be entertained and enlightened by a misbegotten touring company who are presenting this educational musical about the eponymous echinoderm. We even get a chance, "pre-show," to practice some magic words with Pointy himself.
Sparacino's great comic idea in this piece, though, is that we're not just watching a hokey kids' musical—we're ALSO seeing the backstage shenanigans of the cast and crew. It's kind of like if Kiss Me, Kate were about children's theater instead of Shakespeare (and a lot shorter). I don't want to give too much away, but both Kitty (the actress who plays the spoiled little girl heroine in the kids' show) and her husband Benjamin (who plays Pointy the Starfish) are planning illicit trysts in between the scenes. Meanwhile the Stage Manager tries to keep the show afloat. (elizabeth a. fortudo, as this hapless personage, stops the show singing "Stage Manager Blues.")
There are several songs by Sparacino and Eric Chercover, including the utterly witless, yet memorable, "Ocean Song," which opens and closes "Pointy," sung by Kitty, Steven, and the two-man chorus (Anemone and Plankton). Sparacino plays Kitty, and she's terrific (I realized watching that this is the first time I've seen her act on stage; I'm more accustomed to her work as a director and/or playwright). She's matched by the rest of the ensemble, including Brandon Schraml as paranoid Benjamin (and Pointy), Adam Sullivan as another actor, Steven (who plays Neptune in the show), and Bria and Thomas as the chorus. Director Lori Kee plays the Seagull, who delivers the message of "Pointy the Starfish" in uproarious serious fashion. Kee's gull makeup is awesome, and the set and Starfish costume by Elizabeth Chaney are excellent.
All in all, Sisters Grimm delivers two heaping servings of witty theater, and I highly recommend you catch it before FRIGID wraps up.