‘Big Bad’ at Encore Stage and Studio by Julia L. Exline

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Encore Stage and Studio presents Big Bad, a melding of classic fairy tales who all have one thing in common: their villain! The Big Bad Wolf is on trial for his actions…but is he guilty of the accused crimes, or is he an innocent figure who is simply misunderstood? In this production, directed by Kristen Pilgrim and Executive Director Sara Strehle Duke, the audience serves as the jury, and it’s up to you to decide!

Sam Schachter  (Shepherd) and Meghan Mack (Evil Stepmother). Photo by Larry McClemons.

Sam Schachter (Shepherd) and Meghan Mack (Evil Stepmother). Photo by Larry McClemons.

Set Designer and Master Carpenter Jimmy Keady creates a forest courtroom, with a variety of painted trees against a cloudy blue sky and vines wound around wooden benches, with tree stumps for chairs. Sound Designer Kristen Pilgrim appropriately (and cleverly) uses the Law and Order intro when witnesses approach the stand, and Lighting Designer Gary Hauptman enhances the effect with the use of spotlights. Debra Leonard’s Costume Design is youthful and creative, while expressing the characters nicely. The Fairy Godmother glitters form head to toe, from her wings down to her sparkly pink handbag. Evil Stepmother is dressed in sleek business black, and the Big Bad Wolf wears a rebellious leather jacket, white t-shirt, jeans…and furry ears. Various fairy-tale character costumes complete the cast, from Little Red Riding Hood’s cape to the staff and robe of the Shepherd.

The show opens with protestors traipsing down either side of the audience; one group yelling for the Wolf’s guilty verdict, the other pleading for his innocence. They continue to walk amongst the audience and whisper their pleas while the trial begins with press interviews, which I unfortunately found particularly distracting. The Fairy Godmother (Robin Messner) lays the melodrama on thick as she leads the prosecution against the Wolf and interviews her witnesses. Little Red Riding Hood (Caroline Morely) and her Grandmother (Grace Lekel) make a fantastic (and greedy) Jersey-accented pair  who discuss the various ways they plan to upgrade their home (hot tub, anyone?) with their settlement. The Three Little Pigs (Kevin Grieco, Arwyn Fleming, and Camila Cardwell) do a good job as a dim-witted brother and sister lead by their intelligent, put-upon sibling. Meghan Mack is incredible as the snarky, brash Evil Stepmother, who represents the Big Bad Wolf (Chris Hahn), and Talia Pekari is hilariously entertaining as the old and confused Judge. There are a few pauses for “commercials,” featuring products such as “Jack’s Magic Beans” and “Fairy Dust.” Performed by Tyler Gaugler, Ben Hacker, and Dru Nisbett, the commercials are incredibly cute interludes. Scenes played out in slow-motion, as well as at lightening-speed, prove to be quite the crowd-pleaser. Witnesses are questioned, surprises are unearthed, and the audience has the final say: The Big Bag Wolf, guilty or innocent?

Big Bad was highly entertaining, and displayed some real young talent. Encore Stage and Studio’s mission is “to build life-long appreciation for live theater by involving young people in all aspects of theater arts—onstage, backstage, in the classroom, and in the audience.” Through this achievement, strong personal character and friendships are built, along with excellent teamwork skills. These worthwhile goals are clearly shown onstage, and are a joy to watch, and for children everywhere to be exposed to.

(Left to right) Erin Poplin (Grimm Sister), Meghan Mack (Evil Stepmother),  Chris Hahn (Big Bad Wolf), and Malena Davis (Grimm Sister). Photo by  Larry McClemons.

(Left to right) Erin Poplin (Grimm Sister), Meghan Mack (Evil Stepmother), Chris Hahn (Big Bad Wolf), and Malena Davis (Grimm Sister). Photo by Larry McClemons.

Treat your child (and yourself!) to a showing of Big Bad…it’s a blast!

Running Time: 70 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

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Big Bad runs through March 3, 2013 at Encore Stage and Studio at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center – 125 South Old Glebe Road, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 548-1154, or order them online.

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