nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 15, 2009
From the very beginning of Forest Maiden, writer/director Nina Morrison establishes the atmosphere of light-hearted good times that will last throughout the show. The first thing we see is two busty forest fairies lying on their backs texting each other. Enter the forest maiden. She has run away from the prince into the wild forest to get away from society and all its judgment. A knight is chasing her down so he can bring her back to the prince for inspection. It seems the prince has a new maiden inspector who just happens to be the host of a makeover reality TV show. The maiden, the host, and the knight butt heads, bicker, bite, and scratch until finally they fall into the dream world where they'll need to work together to find their way back to the waking world.
This play is absolutely hilarious. I had such a good time. Morrison's staging is clear, fast-paced, and many times just as funny as her script. The play is set in the days of yore but it is filled with anachronisms. And that goes right along with her plot and characters. They too do not fit into the mold of their time. The knight is a single working mother, the maiden is a lesbian who has been having an affair with an elf for the past year, and the host is a fabulously gay man who sports a Renaissance jogging outfit to die for. Morrison's themes are very clear...sometimes maybe a little too clear where they might be a little more subtle. Simply put, Morrison wants us all to live and let live in peace and harmony because it takes all types to make the world an interesting place. I can agree with that.
The ensemble is great. They have wonderful chemistry and they play their roles with sincerity and dead-on comedic timing. Sharla Meese leads the cast as the maiden and does a great job doing so. She is sassy and real and her character never lets you down. Brenda Crawley is just perfect as the knight and Jamie Pizzorno gets a lot of laughs as the opinionated fashionista host of the Reality Show. Caroline Oster enters as the queen at the end and she does a fine job, but it is Katherine Wessling and Melanie Girton Hewett as the forest fairies who in many ways steal the show. They serve as sort of Greek chorus members who comment on the action with words and actions of their own, or they are stage managers who change the set as needed. Mostly they are just very funny and often I found myself watching them. I really enjoyed the way in which they would lighten the mood when it got too heavy or preachy or if the pace slowed too much.
I should also mention Jimmy Helwin, who designed the costumes. They look very good and fit very well into the overall design of the production. There are two strange short films that are stylish and cool and well-placed in the show. They are created by Zoe Woodworth, who also serves as the production's art director.
Forest Maiden is a very funny show. You'll have a good time. Nina Morrison's world is an interesting and fun place to be. If only we could live in a world like this all the time.