‘Rumpelstiltskin’ at Imagination Stage by Julia L. Exline

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Imagination Stage presents the old childhood tale Rumpelstiltskin, written for the stage by Mike Kenny and directed by Janet Stanford.

Scenic Designer Daniel Pinha drapes the stage with an entwined material, made to look like heaps of straw that rises to the ceiling. These draperies later light up as the straw is turned into gold. The rest of the set is fairly simple; scattered with a few wooden barrels and a lone spinning wheel. The superb cast of actors themselves double as set pieces throughout the show, bending and twisting to make furniture and door frames. Lighting Designer Rob Denton uses soft gold and blue hues to enhance the rustic atmosphere, and so does the naturalistic effects by Christopher Baine, but the real standout talent in this show for sound goes to Anthony Hyatt, who flits around the stage as “Fair Folk” while playing the fiddle. Without his music alongside the action, the show wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable. Katie Touart uses natural elements for the fairy folk’s costumes, like leaves, furs, and basket weaving, alongside the expected medieval princess gowns for principal characters. Together, the technical elements for this production create a lovely tone for the actors to interact with.

Rumpelstiltskin (Matthew Pauli) and The Miller's Daughter (Katherine Renee  Turner). Photo by  Margot Schulman.

Rumpelstiltskin (Matthew Pauli) and The Miller’s Daughter (Katherine Renee Turner). Photo by Margot Schulman.

When a poor-but-proud Miller (Ricardo Frederick Evans) unwittingly spreads a rumor that his daughter (Katherine Renee Turner) can spin straw into gold, she is challenged by the spoiled King (Jason Glass) to perform her skill, or else! Terrified for her life, the Miller’s Daughter is greeted by a clever Fairy named Rumpelstiltskin (Matthew Pauli), who agrees to spin the straw for her…but at a tremendous cost. Will the Miller’s Daughter be able to escape the threats of both the King and the Fairy?

Rumpelstiltskin_F (2)Rumpelstiltskin is not a horribly long tale to tell, so the plot had to be thickened a bit in order to create a full-stage production. New plot details emerge, like an influential friend and nurse for the Miller’s Daughter named Mess (Kathryn Kelly), a deeper delve into the life of Fair Folk and the King’s past, and the modernization of some arcane social issues (let’s just say the King got away with a lot more in the original version). There is also a lot more character growth than in the original story– the characters learn valuable life lessons and thrive from it (well, most of them). I enjoyed a lot of these new directions, but I did feel that the exhaustive rhymed verse spoken by the fair folk overstayed its welcome a little bit. The ending (which involves a powerful fit of fury) can also be a bit overwhelming for younger children.

Imagination Stage’s Rumpelstiltskin is a stunning production filled with fantastic performances and valuable lessons.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Rumpelstiltskin plays through March 16, 2014 at Imagination Stage– 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (301-280-1660 or purchase them online.

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