Thursday, December 18, 2014

Once Upon A Bride There Was A Forest

In the first scene of Kristen Palmer's Once Upon A Bride There Was A Forest, Josie (Rachael Hip-Flores) tells her boyfriend Warren (Chinaza Uche) that she will finally marry him but first she has to search for her father. Warren doesn't want Josie to go off on her own, but she promises to call every night and to be back in a fortnight. Off she goes. Soon her car breaks down. There's this big house...

Rachael Hip-Flores, Kristen Vaughan
Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum
While Josie eventually finds her way, Once Upon A Bride There Was A Forest doesn't. Its combination of the modern and the fairy tale somehow dilutes both, and Palmer seems to choose her tropes and conventions almost at random with no overarching message/idea. The play starts weak, spending some ten minutes having Warren and Josie debate her quest without actually giving us a clue as to who they are. If they are supposed to be archetypes, that doesn't come through. And if they're just supposed to be people, they're not particularly interesting ones. Even the quest is described in lackluster terms. It's not "I have no idea what happened to my father and I must find him" or "My father disappeared without a trace one rainy night" or whatever. Instead, Josie says, "He could come for the wedding. He could walk me down the aisle," as though they had a falling out and she just doesn't have his email address.

Palmer is lucky enough to have Kristen Vaughan in the cast as an imperious yet nervous woman with secrets, since Vaughan is never less than fascinating. Whatever the famous "it" is, Vaughan's got it, and then some. Brian Silliman brings wry dimensions to potentially flat characters, and Arthur Aulisi charms as the vague, lovable man of the house (straightforwardly named Mr. Wright). On the other hand, Hip-Flores and Uche are unfortunately not able to overcome the dullness of their characters, making them neither fully human nor fully fairy tale characters. When they reach their happy ending, it's hard to care.

This may sound trivial, but I do want to mention that Once Upon A Bride There Was A Forest features the most convincing crying infant I have ever seen/heard on a stage. There was a genuine sense of a real little person in the swaddling.

(press ticket; sixth row)

No comments: