Princess Mimi, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Frog is further subtitled (A Play for Someone Else’s Children). If someone else’s children are little monsters, the nightmare of every babysitter in town, and long overdue for a good talking to, then by all means take them to see this play. Those kids deserve to suffer through this bottom of the barrel melding of The Frog Prince and Beauty and the Beast. Anyone else should stay far, far away. The title princess is a spoiled brat whose only companion is a golden iPod nicknamed Poddy. When she drops her beloved device in a well, she strikes a deal with a frog to fish it out in exchange for letting him stay at the palace. What follows is exactly what you’d expect.
The show, judging from the bios in the program, is almost entirely a product of NYU Tisch BFAs, both in front of and behind the scenes. The humor is low-rent college irony. Scraps of it could be amusing if cut into an Internet series of 45-second fragments, but no amount of bright scenery or energetic acting can disguise the fact that most of playwright Patrick Flynn’s script just isn’t funny. It’s too safe to be kitsch, too bland to be camp, and too often adult to be children’s theater. Society is past the point where merely dressing a man or woman in drag and having them walk around in fabulous outfits is worthy of laughs.
The fabulous outfits, however, really are just that. Everyone gets some great costume choices from designer Laura Helmer. Most characters sport a ridiculously oversized hat for comic effect. Princess Mimi’s headdress contains empty Tab cans that bang together when she makes any sudden movements. Scenic designers Andrew Scoville and Harry John Shephard find charming and simple ways to create the magical land of New Jersey, where the story is set.
But nearly everything else is off. Throughout the show, the two narrators constantly ask the Princess (in the kind of meta-theater talk only recent drama school graduates find amusing) to move the scene along for the sake of the audience. It’s as if the storytellers themselves know they’re telling a dud.