A Grimm Reality
nytheatre.com review by Melanie N. Lee
July 24, 2010
A Grimm Reality may not promise a fairy-tale ending to your New York dreams, but it does provide a fun, enthusiastic romp throughout some updated and intertwined fairy tales adapted into modern-day adventures in the Big Apple. Directed by Isaac Byrne, the show is outdoors and free at Bryant Park, and has some innovative staging.
In a corner of the park, the troupe constructs a play area made of poles, neon green strings, and red curtains (set design by David Ogle), to represent a subway car in which the audience stands and sits. "You're in a fairy tale," the cast sings to the audience before the actors perform in and around the car.
Writers Bekah Brunstetter, Zack Friedman, Cassandra Hume, Chisa Hutchinson, and Dan Kitrosser adapt five Brothers Grimm fairy tales—"Cinderella," "Hansel and Gretel," "The Frog Prince," and the lesser-known "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" and "Snow White and Rose Red" (not to be confused with the Seven Dwarves' Snow White)—into a story of one "Grimm and glorious New York City day" in which several groups of people look forward to—or avoid—Prince Tom Laughlin's Royal Fashion Gala Ball Extraordinaire.
Princess (Elizabeth Kensek), spurned by Prince Tom (Paul Fears) and distressed by overbearing parents (Kitrosser, Amber Bloom), loses her beloved golden ball on the subway tracks. MTA worker Argus P. Frog (a hilarious Will Neuman) returns it to her, exacting from her a promise of marriage. When she reneges, he cries, "Never give up!" and chases her from one stop to the next.
Meanwhile, scorned by her glamour-queen stepmother (Kara Ayn Napolitano) and mean stepsisters (Ryan Wijayaratne, Danny Stagliano—guys in drag), Ashley Puddles (Hume) seeks inner strength via a silver dress borrowed from Tree (Kitrosser). Another glamour seeker, a stepaunt (Napolitano), convinces her new husband (Friedman) to abandon his nephew and niece (Evan Greene, Roberta Colindrez) to their blind, cannibalistic Great Aunt Bernice in Queens, who calls herself Mama Boo (Paul Fears). Another Dad (Byrne) sends a Soldier (Friedman) to spy upon his dance-crazy, shopaholic daughters who run off with Dad's black American Express card. Two quarrelsome sisters, bookish Lorna (Giuditta Lattanzi) and athletic Jenisse (Zoe Kira Mey), vie for a homeless musician named Samson (Kyle Welling) who ends up doing them a favor. (Other actors will assume some roles in subsequent weeks.)
The frenetic action is enhanced by cultural references, clever jokes, and a handful of songs by Napolitano and Kitrosser. Characters bemoan going to trendy stores like Bored and Failure and Needless Markup. The subway announcements are, of course, garbled. A mariachi band on the train sings of Frog's pursuit of Princess. Ashley's stepmother commiserates that her husband "slaves in that brokerage firm firing people all day long." We even hear playground humor as Samson sings, "...where the deer and the cantaloupe play!"
I had trouble hearing some dialogue due to the nearby 42nd Street traffic; the actors may need to project more. I with my middle-aged body found it hard to chase after all the scenes played in different parts of the "subway," but the children followed easily, and some little girls were dancing to the finale. The refrain of the final song, "All in a Day"—which I happened to hear in rehearsal while passing through Bryant Park a few days before the performance—still rings in my mind:
All in a day
All in a day-ay-ay-ay-ay
A Grimm and glorious New York City day!