Don’t Keep This a Secret

by Marguerite Saxton

When asked about theatre, playwright and director Mary Zimmerman states that she “really like(s) to try to stage the impossible” (Chicago Tribune, 2014). Knowing this, one should be excited to see The Secret in the Wings. Under the direction of Cynthia Meier one is invited into a palette of beige, burnt sienna, and red: the bruised colors of fall.  Soft amber floor lamps, discarded sparkly clothes, and an old wood armoire add to the nostalgia and mystery that come with fairy tales. Remember when your mom’s fancy silk dress became dragon wings, stacked chairs became a castle, and that decaying set of records became magical volumes of spell books? This cozy basement set, designed by Joseph McGrath, frames the organized and tucked away minutiae of life.  

Typically, a theatre audience is given permission only to particular images: ones that purposefully illustrate a particular reality. Yet in “The Secret in the Wings” the secrets that usually live in the wings were not hidden, but instead acknowledged and displayed with refreshing candor on stage, fully lit, and unapologetic. Because the set and costume changes happened onstage, the edges of naturalism and surrealism are blurred and the audience receives a peek into what is typically reserved for the shadows. This carefully crafted set is a blank canvas that transforms with each of the differing fairy tales; one becomes transfixed by the ritualistic movement on stage.  It feels like a tape skipping, being rewound, finding the start again, and whipping back into a strange unison with time.

prod1404_09_tf1232c.jpg

Bryn Booth, Patty Gallagher, Joe McGrath, and Matt Walley in The Secret in the Wings. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

A tale within a tale within a tale, like a theatrical display of Matryoshka dolls (the set of small Russian dolls that stack within one another). The featured stories include one about a girl who never laughs, star-crossed lovers turned enemies, and an ever-present ogre. Decapitated heads, eyeballs in a jar, and magic leaves all added curious fodder to the patchworked storytelling.  Each tale stitches through another with a well-oiled choreography that relies on a rhythm like that of sand pendulums.

Patty Gallagher, Claire Elise, Bryn Booth, and Holly Griffith in The Secret in the Wings. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Patty Gallagher, Claire Elise, Bryn Booth, and Holly Griffith in The Secret in the Wings. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Most curious though, is the voice of the performance.  The stories are told with the authority of a 3rd grader – that way they are necessarily and subjectively honest, and still possessing an optimism untouched by life’s troubles.  The Secret in the Wings is what would happen if a child spun out of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, watched American Psycho one too many times, and then decided to recount their favorite fairy tales.  Absurd at times and absurdly funny at others, this play embodies a liminal space that is both harmonious and arresting. Throughout it you will find intentional blocks of silence that strangely syncopate with frenzied parades of choral chanting.  Thanks to the crisp ensemble work by Bryn Booth, Patty Gallagher, Holly Griffith, and Claire Hancock, what initially seems non-sequitur becomes an intimate portrayal of the way young girls bond. Another stand out performer is Hunter Hnat, the badly behaved son who becomes the wildly demonstrative prince who becomes the interpretive dancing suitor and so on until you’re not sure what began and how it ended, but really it doesn’t matter anymore because it’s just so damn interesting.

What really resonates is the exploration of our culture’s collective subconscious – something that’s been molded through fairy tales for thousands of years. In fact, some of the tales included in this production are upwards of 4000 years old.  With that said, this play does not sanitize the violence of the ancient tales. It gives you grit, double-takes, and lots of questions. It relishes in the strangeness of those stories’ ability to gingerly explain beheadings, incestuous relations, and murderous melancholy. And, like a fairy tale, this play perfumes the jarring morals in a saccharin haze, feigning fun.  But then, creeping in slowly, one begins to understand the allegory hidden beneath the playfulness.

Holly Griffith, Joe McGrath and the cast of The Secret in the Wings. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Holly Griffith, Joe McGrath and the cast of The Secret in the Wings. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

More than anything, the stories that Zimmerman has adapted and Meier has crafted are laden with morals; they pose pretty significant questions for our time:  How does ancient wisdom fit into our modern culture? How do old world morals find their way into our new world ways? I left the theatre asking myself these, among other, questions. And isn’t that the objective of theatre: to provoke? To prod us into understanding our roles in THE one big, revolving story? To see ourselves unmasked, brightly lit, exposed, and uncomfortable. As this play reminds us: “We all have a tale.”

You can catch The Secret in the Wings at The Rogue Theater (300 E. University Blvd) through March 17, 2019. Shows are Thursday-Sunday with matinee and evening performances. To get more information or purchase tickets, visit theroguetheatre.org.

 

 

 

This Girl Makes You Laugh, Cry, and Feel

by Bryn Booth

Fairytales, though often universally beloved, can be challenging to bring to life on stage. Finegan Kruckemeyer’s modern fairytale This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing is no exception. This challenge was met with undeniable gusto in its latest rendition produced by The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. The energy brought to this performance by the entire ensemble electrified the audience, both children and adults.
Unlike the fantastical journey we’re about to take with three sisters, the audience is greeted by a minimalistic set, dressed only with a few leafless trees and bathed in moonlight. The silence of the scene is only broken by Immanuel Abraham’s (Music Director and Composer) violin and sweet, soft music.

Feliz Torralba as Albienne, Nicole DelPrete as Carmen, and  Gabriella De Brequet as Beatrix. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Feliz Torralba as Albienne, Nicole DelPrete as Carmen, and Gabriella De Brequet as Beatrix. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Then we meet our three heroines—Albienne, Beatrix, and Carmen. They are surrounded by joy, comfort, and love. But after the death of their affectionate mother, their woodcutter father leaves them in the woods. They each decide to venture down different paths of life, and separate with the intention of returning to each other. Albienne traverses the globe in one direction, and Beatrix, the other. Carmen stays right where she is.
Albienne, portrayed by Felíz Torralba, has an unassailable passion for pastries and an irrefutable talent for baking and a surprising strength in battle. Torralba, with a glowing smile, brings a gentle warmth and a strong presence to her character. Her smile makes you smile. Her joy brings you joy. Torralba makes you care for this wondrous girl who is a feared warrior, and a renowned baker. The second sister, Beatrix, follows the direction of her father with the hope of bringing her own bright energy to the dark places of the world. Gabriella De Brequet is no stranger to playing characters deserving of bountiful energy. With a silly, and often, hyper disposition, De Brequet generously gives to this ensemble. She charges into the production, ready to take you with her. Finally, Carmen—played by Nicole DelPrete—who stays within the woods to care for those who cannot care for themselves. DelPrete is readily received by the audience as her portrayal of this sardonic character brought countless laughs and even affectionate tears to everyone. Her various ensemble roles also carried a similar tune of whimsical sarcasm. The audience quickly let their affections for her be known. Claire Hancock and Leora Sapon-Shevin who round out the ensemble, were clear stand-outs. Both fluidly moved between countless characters with impressive polarity. They are sure to make you laugh!

The cast of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The cast of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The strength of this ensemble is anchored by director, Holly Griffith. It was C.S. Lewis who said “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Griffith made this production accessible not only to the laughing children in the audience, but to their parents and other adults who laughed with them. She shrewdly employs the use of old-fashioned children’s toys as stage props to nourish the theme of children playing make-believe. Incidentally, the aesthetic of the play was reminiscent of the make-believe games I played when I was a child. The nostalgia is palpable.
What makes this fairytale so special is not just the entertainment it brings to its audience, but the strength it encourages in its viewers, particularly its female viewers. It takes on the fundamental challenge of producing a fairytale which is the difficulty of taking two-dimensional concepts and placing them in a three-dimensional world. Old children’s stories often require even more suspension of disbelief which can generate unrelatable themes and characters. This does not, however, hold true for Kruckemeyer’s fairytale nor for this production. With an almost all female cast and crew, this play defies the stereotype of the damsel-in-distress. Instead, our heroines exhibit strong wills coupled with compassionate spirits. These three sisters had one thing in common, a need to help others—which is admirable, though one extremely valuable lesson is learned: you don’t have to burn yourself to keep others warm. This moral is wrapped up in hijinks and clever comedy.
The Scoundrel & Scamp’s production of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing is a hilarious fairytale with a heartwarming story that can be enjoyed by all ages. You’ll want to bring the whole family! The show runs through Sunday, November 25th (complete schedule below) at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre at The Historic Y (738 N 5th Avenue, Tucson, AZ, 85705). Tickets are available at scoundrelandscamp.org/this-girl-laughs or by calling the box office at 448-3300.
Showtimes:
Sunday, November 18 @ 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 24 @ 2:00 pm
Saturday, November 24 @ 7:30 pm
Sunday, November 25 @ 2:00 pm

Editor’s Note: Bryn Booth has performed with The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre in past production and does have personal relationships with a few of the cast members and the director. While she had no input or involvement within this production, we feel it is important to disclose any potential biases.