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BWW Review: SOMETHING GRIM(M) Makes Downtown Dallas Its Stage

SOMETHING GRIM(M) walks (literally) its audience through a Grimm-like fairy tale that urges each individual to examine their humility.

BWW Review: SOMETHING GRIM(M) Makes Downtown Dallas Its Stage

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a disaster, so 2021 has felt like there is a small light at the end of the tunnel. In the spirit of hope and happiness, why not go to an event inspired by The Brothers Grimm fairy tales?

Tiffany Nichole Greene and members of the Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company created an experience unlike any I have seen. Something Grim(m) walks (literally) its audience through a Grimm-like fairy tale that urges each individual to examine their humility.

Deep blue and purple lights illuminated the bottom level of the parking garage where the experience begins. Spooky, right? Check-in was contactless and quick. The best part: free koozies! All team members were clearly following CDC guidelines and they are tested regularly for Covid-19. If you are itching to get back to the theater scene but want to be safe, I recommend this event!

At our group's start time, 8:20pm, a booming voice started to tell the tale we would soon experience. Pillars of the garage were lined with the words of the tale, and a large comic strip provided our first look at some of the characters we would soon get to know. When it was time to move to the next location, a loud DING! was played through the sound system. This same DING! signaled us to move forward through each part of the experience. (I didn't know Pavlov was working for Dallas Theater Center!?)

Our next location had socially distanced seating and plenty of standing room. As we got settled in our seats, two large screens were counting down to the start. With the temperature in the crisp fifties and a cool breeze blowing, I was ready for the countdown to hit 0. When it did, actors appeared on the screens. At this moment, I was excited for the experience to continue but disappointed with the realization of watching a film. The screens were inside the building behind a wall of windows while we were outside. With the windows as a safe barrier, I was hoping for the opportunity to see some live action. Regardless, the tale needed to be told, and the experience continued. This is when we met the impressive characters of the Farmer, played by Blake Hackler, and the Cook, played by Molly Searcy. Even with the limitations of the on screen performance, Hackler and Searcy served stellar performances. I was absorbed by their characters and hopeful to see them again.

DING!

Up next was a listen-while-walking segment that was confusing at times. Our group couldn't seem to figure out when to move forward, how far, and when to stop and listen. Despite this minor confusion, I really enjoyed this portion of the experience. There were life-size cutouts of scenery and characters lining the zig-zag ramp that we walked on. As we listened to the tale, the relevant set piece was illuminated. It felt as if we were walking through the pages of a pop-up picture book. With this being an immersive experience rather than a traditional play, I thought this was a brilliant use of the outdoor space. Before moving to the next space, we were asked to interact with the set by taking a flower. (I was quite fond of that flower...I almost wanted to keep it!) I appreciated the inclusion of the audience in the experience. Again, it felt as if we were within the pages of a book rather than watching the tale unfold.

DING!

We moved forward to another area with screens and plenty of seating and standing room. I knew what to expect this time so I wasn't as disappointed as the first time--well, not until the underwhelming climax of the Grimm-like tale. There was only a brief moment of Grimm in the first screen performance, so I was anxiously awaiting another. In the second screen performance, the King, passionately played by Alex Organ, admits to a horrid act but does not have to suffer the consequences thanks to the faithful Cook (Searcy). This is when we finally get to see Liz Mikel give a heartfelt performance as the Queen. Although the acting in this pivotal scene was commendable, the scene itself was weak. The Grimm-esque moment I had been waiting for was over in an instant. By the time I registered what happened and started to form an emotional response, we were already on to the next scene. This was when the face of the Wishing Well, played by Tiffany Solano, appeared on the screens with an overlay of blues and greens, positioning her as an all-knowing, all-powerful being. She presents the Child, played by all members of the cast, with two choices--save yourself or save another.

DING!

As the tale hurriedly comes to a close, the audience is asked to make that same moral choice--save ourselves or save another. Of course everyone chose to save another; even if someone did want to save themselves, the expectation to save another was clear. This is a true and important message, but if the purpose of this experience was for individuals in the audience to examine themselves and their uses of power, it did not work. The lesson was thoughtful, but the introspection was not as genuine as it could have been--it felt forced.

DING! THE END.

I was truly impressed by the use of multimedia throughout the experience. Moving through the spaces and looking at the visual elements was engaging, making the set more impressive than the Something Grim(m) tale itself.

I appreciated the clear Covid-19 safety protocols they had in place. The same level of safety protocols should be applied to the physical spaces throughout the experience. Before it began, we were given instructions for how to move through the experience. A team member chuckled and said he hoped they "spelled it out" for us. That wasn't so funny after one of our fellow audience members tripped and fell during the experience.

As we were leaving, I noticed a significant quote that was largely projected on the side of a building: "What are you doing with your power? Someone else's life depends on it." Although it was not perfect, Something Grim(m) offered a unique theatrical experience while encouraging audience members to evaluate their humility. It is a lesson we all could benefit from learning, and what better way to learn it than with Dallas Theater Center?

Details: March 18 - April 4. Outdoor event. Buy tickets through the Dallas Theater Center website. Time: 40 minutes.

Photo Credit: John Slauson


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