nytheatre.com review by Rohana Elias-Reyes
January 9, 2010
Over the past year, I've reviewed a number of children's shows and seen an even larger number. With some exceptions, the shows break down into three basic groups: challenging, beautifully staged and performed productions from other countries; well-executed formulaic musicals based on best-selling children's books; and earnestly well-intentioned low-budget "original" plays featuring telegraphed messages and casts of mixed-level experience. Produced by Nicu's Spoon Theater, Rumplestiltskin falls into the last category.
Katie Labahn's adaptation embellishes the widely known Brothers Grimm version of the tale. "R" and his fairy friend Mori are bored after 500 years together; R decides the solution is to acquire a human baby. Meanwhile, King Thaddeus is sitting on the bankrupt throne of Marigold. His advisor Lady Malcolm insists he marry for money to save the kingdom, but instead he disguises himself as a peasant and ends up meeting a miller and his daughter, Annalease. Calvin, the miller, brags to the Lady Malcolm that his daughter can spin straw into gold and the well-known story unfolds.
Though there are opportunities for kids in the audience to dance with the cast and help solve the riddle of Rumplestiltskin's name, what drew my four- and six-year-olds into the show were Matt Maynard's cartoonishly villainous portrayal of Rumplestiltskin, several magic tricks interspersed throughout, and the somewhat odd turning-straw-into-gold dance numbers.
What I liked was Nicu's Spoon Theatre's wonderfully straightforward version of inclusion. Actress and playwright Katie Labahn performs in a wheelchair—it's not a plot point, nor is the character described that way; there is simply no reason why Lady Malcolm (or any other character in the play really) shouldn't be in a wheelchair. When she entered, my daughter turned to me and asked if the actress really needed a wheelchair, I nodded, she nodded and turned back to watch the show. That moment was a far more valuable lesson than when the performers turned to the kids in the audience and told them that lying is bad and gets you into trouble. With a $10 entry fee, Rumplestiltskin offers another kind of inclusion as well.