nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
December 1, 2011
Once upon a time there was a theater company, who decided to take a risk and produce adult versions of children's classic fairy tales. The Shelter Theater Company does this and takes old tales and turns them into modern-day adaptations. The evening is comprised of five plays that have interesting twists to them that make them scary and eerily entertaining. Luckily, Shelter's risk pays off and, despite some uneven scripts, Fairy Tale delivers a happy ending by providing us with an engaging night of theater.
In between the plays, masked characters change the sets. Their choreographed stylistic approach to a mundane task was inventive and fun. The audience, who usually checks out during scene changes, was captivated by who these masked people were. This was a story unto itself, which was interestingly mysterious, and brought us into the world of each new play. We were never left bored or conscious of the time between sets.
The third short play, 3 Sisters and a Carnie inspired by "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," is well done. In this parody, three sisters gain admission to a fun house at a carnival. But like the Three Billy Goats Gruff, they have no money to pay the Carnie (the troll under the bridge.) While each sister is sexually appealing to the Carnie, played well by Edwin Sean Patterson, he quickly finds the first two sisters draining and lets them into the fun house out of annoyance. But the real “fun” begins when the third sister, played adeptly by Aubrey Bail, comes to wait for her sisters. Bail and Patterson have instant chemistry and their odd attraction is palpable. I do not want to give any more, but this story had me well entertained.
The last piece of the evening, Terror on Haxos 9, inspired by Hansel and Gretel, is equally impressive. In this sketch, two astronauts are looking for extra-terrestrials on the moon. While Detective Lenora Gretsky, played convincingly by Laine Bonstein, is obsessed with her work, her counterpart Lieutenant Hank Calkins, played with great buffoonery by Nick Stevens, is more interested in food than research. These two characters are as opposite as they come and are delightful to watch. When they discover an alien-made food machine all havoc breaks loose. If you know "Hansel and Gretel," this play does not disappoint as Bonstein and Stevens deliver when they need too.
Although the other pieces were intriguing, I did not find them to be as well developed as the above mentioned plays. In particular, R.!.P Captain Wendel, left me confused. I think there's a great story there, but it is still too far off and needs more work. Similarly, Kate has very interesting characters and the actors are compelling, but I was left with several questions that I would have liked clarity on. (What is their relationship? Why are they the way they are?) I think this piece has great potential, but it is not quite there yet. Perhaps if the audience received a short synopsis of each fairy tale in its original form, we would have enough background to fully understand the new twists that the playwrights have made.
Still, there is a lot to be said for Shelter's production. It is bold, creative, and exciting. I left the theater feeling like a grown-up kid ready to find my happily ever after.