Familiar Fables Revisted: A Review of ACT’s “An Evening of Fairy Tales”

Poster of ACT's Evening of Fairy Tales

Poster of ACT’s Evening of Fairy Tales

On Friday, February 15th, 2013, I attended “An Evening of Fairy Tales” produced by ACT (A Community Theatre) at The Guild in Charlottetown. The event was an evening of one act plays, each with a fairy tale theme. Both of the plays had a lot to offer, as they each displayed heartfelt messages conveyed through the innocence of a fairy tale. My experience of the show was also enhanced by the impressive performances from many of the comedic characters that were clearly the strengths of both shows. Overall, I found the evening to be very enjoyable because of the honest messages from each show, and because of the strong comedic performances.

The first show of the evening was Not-So-Grimm Tales, written by Kevin Bean, and directed by Marla Haines and Frances Anne Squire. This play was told within the framed narrative of a mother telling her child a series of classic fairy tales each with a modern twist. The modern elements included within each fairy tale gave each vignette a fresh quality, and conveyed the message that a relationship should consist of partners working together, rather than just a prince to come and save the damsel in distress. There were many strong performers among this large cast, including Gillian Gallivan as the feisty Little Red Riding Hood, Graeme Zinck as the misanthropic Prince Charming, and Arielle VanIderstine as the devilish Evil Queen. These performances were strong throughout their respective scenes based on their high levels of energy,and willingness to take risks with their characters. Perhaps the most entertaining element of the show was the comically dead-pan Fairy Godmother (played by Sam Rainnie), who clearly displayed his apathy for his profession. He made his rare moments of excitement hilarious to watch.

Another positive element of this production was the costume design. In each of the fairy tale vignettes, the costumes were very elaborately designed, which reflected the fantasy quality of story. The mother and the daughter in the play were wearing contemporary dress, which I felt was an effective choice to juxtapose the real world from the fantasy world. The only concern I had during this show was that I felt that the stage seemed clustered at times, as a majority of the action could only occur on half of the stage, while the mother and daughter element of the play quietly occupied the other half. Regardless, the performers maximized their space, and clearly conveyed the message of the story.

The second half of the evening featured the play Mirror Mirror, written by Bruce Kane, and directed by Keir Malone, making his directorial debut. This play featured an archetypical wicked step-mother (played by Lana Mill), who was growing infuriated that her step-daughter (played by Olivia Barnes) was more popular with princes of the kingdom than her. Highlights of this show included Tim Wartman, who provided a strong portrayal of the hapless Mirror torn between pleasing the step-mother and lusting after the step-daughters. Ian Cheverie played the narrator of the play, but gave the character a life of his own by demonstrating his frequent frustrations with certain characters of the play. Cameron MacDonald had the daunting task of having to play a variety of different suitors for the step-daughter; however, he succeeded in keeping all of his characters distinct as well as comical. Kudos to MacDonald for being able to convey a strong magnitude of creepiness with a character that only had a single line. The message of this play was less broadly-stated than Not-So-Grimm Tales; however, an active audience could easily comprehend the presented satire of ‘shallowness breeding shallowness’. The content of this show was also a little raunchier in terms of subject matter, based on repeated references to parts of the female anatomy. While these jokes were amusing at times, it does seem inappropriate for an evening of one act plays that was being marketed as “family friendly.” In spite of some of the crude humour, the play was very enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing more of Malone’s work as a director.

As an audience member, what I enjoy the most from shows like these is the level of new talent involved in the production. ACT’s presentation of ‘An Evening of Fairy Tales’ was a very enjoyable experience not only based on each play’s message or comedic performances, but it also revealed the impressive level of talent within the Charlottetown region. Both shows featured many aspiring artists, both on the stage and behind the scenes. Whether they are performing strictly as a hobby, or if they plan on pursing theatre as a line of work, new talent is always exciting to see. Based the talent that was involved in this production, I found ACT’s “An Evening of Fairy Tales” to be a very enjoyable experience


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