BWW Review: Sound Theatre Company's GOBLIN MARKET a Feast for the Eyes and Ears
"Goblin Market" is a macabre fairytale about two women struggling to fight against temptation. Based on the narrative poem by Christina Rossetti, this one-act musical is a world-premiere written by Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon. As a musical production, "Goblin Market" tells the bulk of the narrative through song, living in this space between being a musical and an opera that makes for an elegant and evocative work.
It's 1862. Lizzie and Laura have returned to their childhood home, joyfully yanking the dusty sheets off of relic after relic from yesteryear. Basking in the nostalgia (or maybe distracting themselves from ominous forces outside), they sing songs, play word games, and eventually fall into a rabbit hole of memory from when they were two young girls. Laura, the more adventurous one, enthusiastically ventures off to the goblin market to indulge in forbidden fruit. Lizzie warns Laura of the dangers tasting goblin fruit bring, reminding her of their friend Jeanie who suffered dire consequences once she gave into temptation.
Historically, Christina Rossetti's poem has been interpreted as an allegory for Victorian women's sexual mores. Others interpret it as a religious allegory. But the artistic director Teresa Thuman really leans into the sexual allegory, with the sisters' verbal emphasis on every "suck" and "globe". At one point, a goblin holds two halves of a large melon in front of Laura, meant to look like breasts. And, fantasy tale or not, I've never had a pear make me moan like that.
Sound Theatre Company's rotating cast creates a new show for every audience. On opening night, Claire Marx (Lizzie) and Miranda Troutt (Laura) play Lizzie and Laura, but on different nights during the show's run, Justine Davis and Kelly Mak, who play the secondary characters in the production on opening night, swap out to play the real Lizzie and Laura. Marx and Mak play goblins, shadows, and physical manifestations of temptation as they linger and giggle. At what point they stop being figments of Lizzie and Laura's imagination and start being real creatures is muddy and unclear, but given the fantastical nature of the production, isn't that big of a problem.
As Laura, Miranda Troutt is ebullient and eager. Paired aside Claire Marx' steadfast Lizzie, the two have comparable vim and vigor, though Lizzie is more fearful and fatalistic. On paper, Laura and Lizzie represent different ends of the "how-one-handles-temptation" spectrum. But Marx's and Troutt's portrayals of what should be polar-opposite characters were pretty tonally similar. Perhaps this comes with the territory of having the cast interchange throughout the run.
Comprehending the poetic language isn't even necessary for one to enjoy the show--the cast's operatic singing with Montana Tippett's spooky and elegant scenic design could be enough. I would like to underscore the vocal talent of this cast. All four actors have an impressive range, and bring the show musically from great to excellent (not to mention the show's live musical accompaniment). Once again, Sound Theatre Company created a specific and grounded physical world made that much more visualized through historically fitting bric-a-brac and evocative lighting. Showing the drip of fruit juices by using lavish accessories like feather boas and pearls is a playful and effective directorial choice. Laura breaks a fruit in half and a string of jewels falls down her arms. How decadent!
What a delightfully spooky and sensual show to close out the summer. Despite a bit of blurred characterization here and there, Sound Theater Company's "Goblin Market" is a dark, romantic fantasy to please the senses. I give this Victorian bacchanal a very pleased B+. Feast your eyes and ears!
"Goblin Market" performs at the Center Theatre in the Seattle Center through August 27th, 2017. For tickets and information, visit them online at www.soundtheatrecompany.org.