The Elden Street Players Theatre for Young Audiences presents The Fairy Tale Courtroom, a humorous twist on the classic fairy tales written by Dana Proulx, where two of the most infamous villains – the Wicked Witch and the Big Bad Wolf – stand trial for their destructive deeds. Guilty, or misunderstood? Leah Daily directs this interactive production, whose ending (*ahem* verdict) is decided by the audience-turned-jurors.
The set is instantly recognizable as a courtroom, with rows of chairs on either side of a looming judge’s desk with balance scales painted onto it, and two desks further downstage on either side. One, barely seen under a mountain of clutter, consisting of mainly Starbucks cups and legal pads, the other, neat and orderly. The only thing that seems out of place is a large Book of Grimm, on which the witnesses place their hand and swear to tell the truth on instead of a Bible (“…so help you Brothers Grimm?”) Sound Designer Ben Allen cleverly matches characters with their own distinctive songs as they take the stand. For instance, Dorothy walks to her seat amidst a few bars of “Over the Rainbow.” Costumes by Kathy Dunlap sweep the stage in waves of bright colors and prints, the characters looking every bit the way you would expect them to (with the exception of Little Red Riding Hood, whose outfit obviously came from the adult side of the costume shop, and who had a flirty personality to match).
The trials, for the most part, are done the traditional way: witnesses are called to testify against the defendants, cases are made, and a decision is reached. The Big Bad Wolf (Andrew Lent) shows a cleverness with his witnesses, and can be seen waving a sack of money in front of their faces (or in a Little Pig’s case, a Twinkie) as bribery, while the Wicked Witch (Jackie Davis) takes a more timid approach, and lets her defense attorney (Jeffrey Moen) do most of the talking.
Liz Mykietyn gives a spectacular performance as the harried district attorney, working off of the audience’s feedback and encouraging the most interaction. The playful Judge (Jim Johnson) prefers to settle disputes through games of Rock, Paper, Scissors, staring contests, and other silly means. Testaments are given, accusations thrown, as well as plenty of drama, including a memorable slap-fight between Snow White (Christina Talhame) and Sleeping Beauty (Nikki Pope) over Prince Charming (Shanelucas Ramsey).
The show was full of fun, but there were, in my opinion, far too many characters (a whopping twenty-five in total), a lot of whom were not needed as they only had a few easily forgettable lines. With so many people onstage at once, it was often hard to decide where to look. Hansel and Gretel (Rodney Collins and Annie Begley) sat off to the side for the majority of the show, but their presence was so enthralling that I could hardly pay attention to the main plot unraveling mere feet from where they sat. This was due to the fact that they ate their way through an entire box of Twinkies, Fruit Roll-ups, and bags of cookies while they sat impatiently, tossing aside their wrappings and mischievously sticking pencils into the attorney’s bun, who had the misfortune of being seated in front of them. I don’t even want to think about the stomachache that awaited these devoted actors later on.
While a bit chaotic, The Fairy Tale Courtroom was greatly entertaining, and I am glad that I caught a showing of it!
Running time is 70 minutes, with no intermission.
The Fairy Tale Courtroom completed its run on July 1, 2012, at The Elden Street Players at The Industrial Theatre – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA (in the Sunset Business Park). For information on upcoming shows, please visit their website.