Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Once Upon a Time...

By Kaila M. Stokes

Little Stories is a breath of fresh air in regards to comedic folklore in NYC. The plot was interesting from the description so one had high hopes. The show began with a mime/clown, played by Jack Herholdt. The clown interacted with the audience; making them laugh, scaring them in a playful way and even directing a few chosen audience members to open the show with a clink of a glass and a message in a bottle. Jack Herholdt’s work was so much fun; he seemed to enjoy himself every second. It was extremely entertaining to see him jump in and out of the stories – he broke the fourth wall throughout making it feel as if the audience was in the story too. The audience was always “in” on the secrets of what was about to take place. Little Stories is literally a bunch of “little stories” that have been lost or reinterpreted over the years all originally by The Brothers Grimm and adapted for this show by Jack Herholdt as well.
The story opened with "The Fisherman and His Wife". The fisherman catches a magic talking fish, but throws him back as a favor. His wife (who was fittingly a puppet) then wants to ask for all these favors until basically the world has come to an end because of her greed and the fisherman’s inability to say NO. Mark Woodard, the fisherman, was just darling onstage, he was quirky like the stories, but made you believe in each character he portrayed. He committed to each ridiculous idea, which made those the ridiculous reality.
The second tale was "Mother Holle," an enchanting story of good vs. not so good, where each will get us in the end. Garret Burreson hilariously played the “not so good” sister in this story. Garret was a hoot to watch. He had long hair that transformed him into sisters, kings, beggars and more throughout all the stories. Another actor that gave it his all and made the audience want to keep watching!
The third story, "The Stolen Pennies" is originally a ghost story. Actress Getchie Argetsinger plays a wanderer who is taking shelter from a storm in a generous families’ home. About midway through dinner she asks how old their son is as she is staring into a corner where no one is. The family looks at each other frightfully and the mother, played by Mickey Pantano, breaks down crying saying that her son died two weeks ago. Just as they were about to throw this crazy woman out she asks if these pennies under the floor boards mean anything. The mother immediately recognizes them and dives into detail. They are so thankful that this woman has actually brought closure to the family by being able to see the boy’s ghost. Both actresses Getchie and Mickey play those motherly roles throughout the stories, without them all would be lost since they are part of the merriment on stage.
The fourth and fifth stories, "King Thrushbeard" and "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering" featured actress, Summer Dawn Hortillosa. Summer played vastly different characters in each story, but non the less, went from an ungrateful princess to a murderous child seamlessly. The youngest in the troupe, Summer evoked a childlike play to each story that only she was able to do. Her theatrical enthusiasm kept the audience engaged each time.
This was an ensemble effort without a doubt, but one must commend the director, Michael Heitzler, and adapter, Jack Herholdt as well. Their vision was so clear which made it so easy for the audience to enjoy themselves. The time and effort spent on set and props also made the show. There were puppets (designed by Jan Leslie Harding), multiple costume changes (designed by Jennifer A. Jacob), props and scenic changes (designed by Scott Connor) that navigated each story. With so much to keep track of, it all was married together as one moving unit. Michael did a fantastic job connecting the audience, the troupe and our narrator clown. The one note that could have changed is that sometimes it was not clear when a story ended. I think a period put on each piece could have been used. The clown would have been a great source for this; either getting the audience to clap, maybe becoming an audience member or making the troupe bow perhaps. But guess what, doesn’t matter, go see Little Stories if it plays anywhere, an enjoyable evening with a talented group of performers, designers and more awaits you.