In recent decades, literary scholars have fastened on fairy tales as a key to unlocking the mysteries of the national psyche. Fairy Tale Monologues: Fables With Attitude, in a sometimes wickedly funny and subversive production staged by Point of You Productions, takes this premise and runs with it, reimagining these age-old stories as miniature psychodramas and endowing the inhabitants of Fairyland with modern identities and motives.
Directed by Jeff Love, the play consists of 10 segments, each running roughly eight minutes. One by one, in no apparent order, fancifully dressed fairy-tale characters, including King Midas, Tom Thumb, Snow White, and Goldilocks, take their turn on the stage, which is sparsely adorned with a signpost and a rectangular box, and tell the audience their stories.
The press release promises that the fairy-tale characters will "tell you what really happens when their story ends. Is it truly 'Happily Ever After'?" But writer Paul Weissman does more: he relays each tale's aftermath but also reimagines the tale itself as well as the events preceding it. With few plot links between the tales, each monologue succeeds or fails on its own merits, which makes for an uneven evening.
In the funniest sketch (the only one that's not a monologue), Hansel and Gretel, two wide-eyed, doughy German children dressed in lederhosen, explain where they were last night to their stepmother (whom we neither hear nor see). Gretel's attempt to present a plausible alibi is undermined at each turn by Hansel's interjections about candy-cane houses and witches, propelling the girl to concoct in exasperation the fairy tale's twists and turns. Triumph swiftly turns to frenzied denials when their stepmother informs them that she's just been on the phone with Rapunzel's mom, who presented a different version of events. Love and Alyssa Mann offer precisely synchronized, pitch-perfect portrayals of the not so innocent kinder.
The other standout monologue of the evening is delivered by the Big Bad Wolf, played by the brawny Gerard J. Savoy with just the right combination of piqued pride and smarminess. The wolf argues half-convincingly to the audience that he's gotten "a bad rap." A construction contractor and father of "a couple of litters," the wolf recounts how he was unfairly exiled for burning down the houses of the three pigs (for whom he cannot conceal his contempt) and later found companionship with Granny until Little Red Riding Hood—a self-absorbed teenage grandchild—enters the picture.
Weissman and his actors get off some good laughs, with Goldilocks as a masquerading, gender-bending bandit (Love); Tinkerbell (Marlise Garde) and Snow White (Melanie Kuchinski Rodriguez) as spurned lovers; and King Midas as the amoral, gold-mongering ruler who does not see any tragedy in his golden touch.
But when Weissman tries to go deeper and become serious, he ironically becomes shallower. The change in mood is jarring for the audience and is not justified by stories that genuinely tug at the heart. Weissman, as actor, falters in his earnest portrayal of Pinocchio as a young man who mistakenly thought he could win his detached father's love by becoming human. Even more of a drag on the evening is David Holt's Tom Thumb, who loses his uniqueness when he grows up—and grows ordinary in stature.
The final monologue should rightfully be delivered by the commitment-phobic dreamboat, Prince Charming (Johnny Blaze Leavitt), given how it neatly circles back to the opening, when Snow White confesses how she is in jail for poisoning the prince in a fit of jealousy. Instead, the evening concludes with an unfortunate thud, courtesy of Sleeping Beauty (Cassandra Cooke), who awakens from a long sleep as an iPod-toting, tiara-wearing jogger who fondly remembers her prior life as a nasty, self-absorbed princess.
Despite its ups and downs, Fairytale Monologues shows that children's fairy tales can be the source of great humor, and an artful mirror of the human condition.