Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: A Forgetful Modern Fairy Tale

Living the life of a fairy tale may seem like a dream, but when the fairy tale becomes a reality, the dream may turn into a nightmare. In Kristen Palmer’s haunting Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest, a young bride to be journeys to find the missing piece in her heart before she can marry the man of her dreams.
When Josie goes on adventure to find her father, she stumbles upon a mysterious mansion that houses a screaming child in search of a nanny. Josie poses as the nanny and discovers this place is also home to her father who disappeared. But what exactly is this place, well that’s the big question. Palmer’s Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest is a modern fairy tale with a horror spin. It’s also a tale of mystery and intrigue that creates rules and occurrences as the play progresses. The rules of the world that Palmer devises are quite confusing, conflicting, and, at times, implausible. Sometimes depending on happenstance, the way the plot unfolds makes you scratch your head and think, “wait, what?” The spell that is cast over the house somehow makes people forget. Josie’s father, Everett, and her fiancĂ©, Warren, have no recollection of Josie when they see her. And we never really know why. Josie happens to forget to call Warren while she’s there. We never see this “vortex” that prevents this amnesia-like occurrence. The timeline of events that Palmer sets forth are also a bit questionable. It’s quite possible the world that Palmer has created is very specific, but the execution of the world needs to be much cleaner because her story is fairly beautiful and heartwarming.
photo courtesy of Isaiah Tanenbaum
The sextet portrays their modern inspired fairy tale counterparts with great fun and willingness to play. But the strength within the ensemble falls to the woman, though Brian Silliaman offers a solid portrayal as the Hitchcock-ian butler. The strongest performance on stage comes from Kristen Vaughan as Eugenia. Vaughan has a Victoria Grayson aura about her character. Vaughan’s witch-like persona makes her a loveable villain, carrying her character with wonderful entitlement. As her childlike daughter Belle, Becky Byers evokes a youthful and bratty naivety to the fiancĂ© stealer. As a modern day princess, Rachael Hip-Flores brings an interesting strength to the role. Her character, which seems to be a remix of many iconic princess including Cinderella and Ariel, finds courage with and without her words. Though, it’s still a bit odd that not a single piece of paper exists for Josie to use. Arthur Aulisi and Chinaza Uche as Everett and Warren respectively struggled with their memory-losing counterparts. They seemed to have difficulty naturally easing into the heightened world Palmer created for them.
While Palmer’s rules may have been confusing, director Heather Cohn’s rules of the space were equally as blurred. The space that scenic designer Will Lowry created was a beautiful wood inspired set that created some interesting challenges. With no true boundaries, besides a door and a platform, Cohn’s physical world was never consistent as actors trotted around the stage haphazardly. The costumes designed by Stephnie Levin fit the characters’ personalities quiet well but the wedding dress, especially post reveal was absolutely stunning on Rachael Hip-Flores.
Despite the beauty of the story, Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest was an underachieving piece that needed more time and care. The idea was something special, but the execution was a miss.