‘Woods’ Team Earns Its Happily Ever After
Published: Sunday, October 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The Boston College Theatre Department's performance of Into the Woods offered a great start to Halloween weekend. With music and lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, the musical's first act weaves together the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. These familiar stories come together uniquely to give birth to a new plot: one of a baker and his wife and the journey they find themselves embarking on to start a family. The second act explores the consequences and repercussions of the characters' wishes that have now been fulfilled and their lives after the traditional fairy tales end. The script itself was filled with great one-liners that frequently had the audience laughing out loud, adding a dark humor and a different perspective on the characters and stories of the fairy tales we know and love.
Everything about this play fit together well, from the energy of the main characters, to the subtleties that filled the stage itself. The three set pieces were not only simple and beautiful, but immediately set the scene for the play and offered a clear and concise correlation to a certain plot, which allowed the audience to see the three plots alongside each other with no confusion. Truly striking, however, were the eerie trees that filled the back of the stage in layers, which gave the background a sense of depth to the forest. They were exactly the dark and creepy trees that one would imagine in the woods of a fairy tale, and the trees manipulated the lighting and cast shadows beautifully, while still remaining the black backdrop to this sinister fairy tale story. All transitions and set changes were done so smoothly and flawlessly that they were barely noticeable. Jeff Adelberg's lighting truly enhanced the show visually, as the contrast between dark and light was crucial in setting the mood for the show. Light was especially noteworthy in the "Act I Finale," when the lighting changed drastically and the shadows of the characters themselves were emphasized so prominently, a striking contrast to any other part of the show in terms of lighting. Jacqueline Dalley's costumes were spot on for each character, however, the most striking were certainly the over-the-top ballroom garb of Cinderella's stepsisters. Although a microphone seemed fuzzy while Cinderella's mother was speaking, the lighting and sound added another dimension to the play that gave it more depth and certainly more excitement.
The actors gave a stellar performance filled with constant energy. Cam Cronin's, LSOE '12, narration with his strong voice and animated presence offered humor throughout the play (until his character is killed, no doubt much to the dismay of the audience), and his back and forth transitions from the narrator to the Mysterious Man are flawless; he plays both parts convincingly with no hint of a changeover. The Prince brothers, played by Owen Grover, A&S '12, and Andrew Babbitt, A&S '15, were a spectacular source of laughter. While the two were certainly everything Prince Charmings should be on paper, their hilariously narcissistic banter and melodramatic song "Agony," and its reprise in the second act, was no doubt a highlight of the show. Both actors did a great job of making Prince Charming seem like an ordinary guy at heart while still maintaining a sense of absurd nobility throughout their performance.
The repertoire between the Wolf, also played by Grover, and Little Red Riding Hood, played by Kathryn Raskin, A&S '15, was dynamic and no doubt slightly unsettling to the audience after Grover's fantastic and sinister performance of "Hello, Little Girl." Raskin was wonderfully convincing as a childlike and innocent, yet also slightly sinister Red Riding Hood. Sarah Winglass', A&S '14, performance as the Baker's Wife was truly a highlight of the show. Not only was her acting spectacular and her singing beautiful, her presence on the stage seemed so natural. The hand motions, facial expressions, and body language that she used to enhance her character were what truly stood out. Maggie Maguire's, A&S '13, rendition of Jack's Mother was incredibly believable and the authenticity of her Irish accent rivals that of our own grandmothers. The script itself showed the true talent of the actors, as their parts changed drastically from Act I to Act II, from innocent and typical fairy tale protagonists, to emphasizing the deeper and darker sides of these characters. Although Act I was quite long, the audience never lost their interest.
What made the show even more interesting were the humorous and quirky subtleties that worked as the crossed Ts and dotted Is of the performance. The light that flashed whenever the witch used her stick, the plopping sound of the magical beans dropping into cupped hands, the ‘whistling' birds on the mobile, and Cinderella's dress divinely appearing from the top of the stage truly added something to the show. A great example of a subtlety that enhanced the show was the depiction of the giant's presence. Kasey Brown's bellowing voice and the rattling of the giant's footsteps were as close to a giant actually being in Robsham Theater as BC will ever get. The actors' ability to look up and speak to the giant as if there were something really there towering above them was impressive as it was done so well.
Into the Woods offered a great take on the traditional fairy tales of our childhood. Every actor portrayed his or her part uniquely and convincingly, while the set design and lighting visually enhanced the already impressive cast.