BWW Review: THE SECRET IN THE WING Opens at the Black Box in Kansas City
The second show of the inaugural season of Forge Repertory Theatre is an ambitious production of Mary Zimmerman's THE SECRET IN THE WINGS. It is hilarious, a generally dark comedy, with moments of violence, masterfully directed by Todd Lanker, but best of all opens Saturday, March 7, at The Black Box in Kansas City.
Zimmerman's fairy tales are not like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, or Snow White, but more like Mr. Peabody's Fractured Fairy Tales if they were written and performed by the Manson family, but in a humorous way. Based on some of the stories of The Brothers Grimm, Zimmerman's tales are at times somewhat gruesome with a hint of sadism, shockingly humorous, and dare I say it, grim in nature. But even Disney fairy tales aren't void of violence. There is a riot at the Beast's castle and the captain is killed, Snow is forced into a deep sleep by a wicked queen and Cinderella's stepmother is abusive to her. So, we should be able to overlook a princess who never smiles or laughs but agrees to marry anyone that can bring a smile to her face, knowing that if they fail, they will be beheaded.
The play opens with a mother and father preparing to go out for an evening leaving a neighbor to watch their young daughter. The daughter Ivy believes the neighbor to be an Ogre, complete with a tail, who wants to eat her. As soon as the parents are out of sight the neighbor asks Ivy to marry him, which she refuses. He begins to read from a book as they climb into a large wardrobe at the corner of the stage. As the doors shut the first fairy tale begins. Each time throughout the play that the Ogre asks Ivy to marry him and she refuses he tells another tale.
The first tale is of three brothers who marry three women who fall under the curse of a house maiden who doesn't want to lose control of the home. The house maiden orders the women taken to the woods and killed, and their eyes brought to her as proof of their demise. The women pluck out their own eyes and convince the servant to give them to her and to let them live. Though it sounds gruesome and grotesque it is done in good taste, even when the house maiden eats one of the eyes. You may be confused up to this point but remember probably most of the audience is also. Don't linger on the confusion, by the end of the last tale and intermission the second act will begin to tie everything together.
The show features an amazing ensemble with Ai Vy Bui, Kitty Corum, Coleman Crenshaw, Lauren Hambleton, Jerry Mañan, Marianne McKenzie, Annie Schwaner, Stefanie Stevens, and Jace Willcutt. Each of the ensembles does a superb job especially with the intricacies of the multiple actions taking place at the same time on the stage, several characters talking in unison at times, and numerous costume changes. There were three stand-out performances, Coleman Crenshaw was dynamic in bringing the Ogre to life, Marianne McKenzie as the mother (and other characters) gives a strong performance, and Stefanie Stevens in multiple roles brings a beautifully powerful vocal voice and an energy that brings her characters to life.
If the preview performance of THE SECRET IN THE WINGS is any indication of the quality of shows that can be expected from Forge Repertory Theatre in the future, then believe me Kansas City is in for a treat. THE SECRET IN THE WINGS continues through March 22 at The Black Box. Purchase tickets online at www.forgerep.org.
Photos courtesy of Forge Repertory Theatre.