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Review: RAPUNZEL ALONE at The Wallis Annenberg Center Of Performing Arts

Playing at The Wallis until March 19 and then 24th Street Theatre until May 1

Review: RAPUNZEL ALONE  at The Wallis Annenberg Center Of Performing Arts

The room was dark and bare. Not much to do or look at. There were no other children to play with. In fact, it wasn't welcoming at all. Even the projections were like shadows stenciled in 3-D moving across the stage-wide screens. It was cold. I didn't like it there. Just like Lettie, I felt very alone.

24th Street Theatre in association with The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts brings to life a new world premiere called, RAPUNZEL ALONE. Written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Mike Kenny and co-directed by Debbie Devine and Jesús Castaños-Chima, the play is a commission by 24th Street Theatre that has been two years in the making. As a loose re-imagining of the classic fairy tale, it is a response to the increasing isolation and loneliness of teens coming of age in the world of social media.

Set in World War II England, RAPUNZEL ALONE tells the story of Lettie (Tara Elise Cox), a young, mixed-race girl living in London during the relentless German bomb attacks. In real life, for their safety, the government determined, at that time, that all children living there, be sent outside of the city. And so, Lettie, along with over 600,000 others, are put on a train and shipped out to the English countryside to live with strangers until the war's end.

She doesn't want to leave. She loves her mum and dad. Lettie is a city girl, who also happens to be a wonderful illustrator and London is the only home she's ever known. But her father a fire watcher and her mum, decide they need to do their part for the war and so must she. So off she goes, with a suitcase, a change of clothes, and a note pinned to her chest for her new foster parents to get to know all about her. When she arrives at her destination, however, there's no one but a very stern Miss Pierce (Marie-Françoise Theodore) come to retrieve her. For the next year, Lettie spends her days working on Miss Pierce's farm, desperately lonely and wishing she were anywhere else but there. Then she meets Conrad (William Leon), the young, cocky mail carrier she's not supposed to talk to, but who is her only other human contact.

Lettie is the Rapunzel of the story. Miss Pierce is a former school teacher born to Jamaican parents now living as an independent woman. To the local townsfolk including Conrad and often to Lettie she is the witch. And they openly call her so. Although it does become obvious that Miss Pierce's sternness is a coverup for much deeper feeling. Conrad isn't exactly a prince but he is a bit more dimensional than the two women. In the course of the story, it could be said that Conrad has much more of an evolution than Lettie. And then there is Gertrude - a very territorial, very grumpy, goose. Gertrude and Lettie are immediate adversaries.

It took a long time to warm up to this production. Everything about it was stern, unembellished and quite the opposite of fun. It wasn't particularly cheery. Nor were the characters. Every day is the same - monotonous, dull, devoid of imagination. The show as a whole is extremely emotionless for almost the entire time. It was hard to feel any empathy at all for anyone. In retrospect, the feeling of it, I thought, is entirely Lettie's point of view. And in that way, we feel how terribly devoid of love and care she must be feeling inside. From this perspective, the coldness makes total sense.

The story shifts as slowly as the passing of time. And somehow Gertrude becomes Lettie's "only friend". And it is Gertrude who brings Lettie around to a sense of personal happiness with Miss Pierce's encouragement, herself finally understanding her own archetypal role in the dynamic.

RAPUNZEL ALONE is sparse and naïve in its writing mimicking how a Grimm fairytale might have been meant to be told - darkly. It is also a simplistic reflection of the race issues that teenagers additionally face in today's world. So, for small children, it is a gentle vehicle for them to experience the uncomfortable reality of the real world. It portrays a one-dimensional aspect of this issue that wouldn't normally measure up against today's adult-driven race politics.

RAPUNZEL ALONE is very much in line with the kind of dramatic fare offered regularly by 24th Theatre. Uncomplicated almost elementary story driven by complex characters but in the most digestible form. If you can sit through the agonizingly slow passing of time with this show, there is a wonderfully satisfying message here for both children and adults.

Excellent performances by the entire cast including Gertrude the Goose and puppeteer, Matt Curtain. Striking and effective set design by Keith Mitchell; video design by Matthew G. Hill; and lighting design by Dan Weingarten. Beautiful, original score by pianist Bradley Brough.

The creative team for Rapunzel Alone includes scenic designer Keith Mitchell; video designer Matthew G. Hill; lighting designer Dan Weingarten; sound designer Jeff Gardner; costume designer Shannon Kennedy and graphic designer Tara Nitz.

Photo by Cooper Bates: Tara Alise Cox

WHO:
• Written by Mike Kenny
• Directed by Debbie Devine and Jesús Castaños-Chima
• Music composed by Bradley Brough
• Starring Tara Alise Cox, William Leon, Marie-Françoise Theodore
• Narration by Mike Kenny
• Puppeteer (Gertrude the Goose): Matt Curtin
• Presented by 24th Street Theatre in association with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

WHEN:
Performances at The Wallis: March 12 - March 19
Performances at 24th Street Theatre: April 9 - May 1

Schedule at The Wallis:

Saturday, March 12 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 13 at 2 p.m.
Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 17 at 7 p.m.
Friday, March 18 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Upcoming schedule at 24th Street Theatre:
Saturdays at 3 p.m.: April 9, April 16, April 23, April 30 (dark March 26 & April 2)
Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.: April 9, April 16, April 23, April 30 (dark March 26 & April 2)
Sundays at 3 p.m.: April 10, April 17, April 24, May 1 (dark March 27 & April 3)


WHERE:
24th Street Theatre
1117 West 24th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007-1725

The Wallis
9390 N Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

TICKETS:


At 24th Street Theatre:
• Adults: $24
• Under 18: $10
• Family Four Pack (2 adults & 2 children): $40
• Seniors, Students and Teachers: $15
• Preview tickets: $5
• North University Park residents (with ID): $2.40


At The Wallis:
All tickets $25

OTHER:
• Appropriate for ages 7 and up.
• Performances at 24th Street Theatre include Spanish supertitles.
• Proof of full vaccination (including booster shot if eligible) and government-issued photo ID are required for admission for all patrons ages 5 and up.
• Patrons who are exempt from COVID-19 vaccinations must show a negative PCR test result within 48 hours or a verifiable Antigen test within 24 hours from your performance date.
• Masks, covering both the mouth and nose, are required throughout the performance; N95 or KN95 masks, or double masking with a surgical mask and fabric face-covering, strongly recommended.

HOW:
(213) 745-6516 or www.24thstreet.org




From This Author - Tracey Paleo