Photos courtesy of Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography
I love walking into shows at the Load of Fun Theater because it’s always a surprise how dramatically the space changes with every show; and Glass Mind Theatre (GMT) doesn’t hold back with their design for their latest collaborative project. In Adapting Cinderella, GMT has managed to take their audience across the globe, visiting Egypt, China and a New York subway station in a piece that interweaves an original script, movement and song to tell an old fairy tale with a new perspective.
As I walked in, I was greeted with a delightful acoustic duo, featuring Justin Lawson Isett on the guitar, and the vocal stylings of the impressive Sarah Ford Gorman. Once ‘A dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ from Disney’s Cinderella began in their makeshift subway station, I was on board and ready to be entertained.
The ‘narrator’ of the show, played engagingly by GMT company member Peter Blaine, was a young man who was late for a business meeting/publisher’s meeting for his new graphic novel, a ‘Cinderella Story.’ From here the show shifts into a Chinese telling of Cinderella fully equipped with ribbon dancing and quiet women. The music from the show opening is followed up by beautiful arrangements and a compelling soundscape designed by Quinn S. and run by Andrew Porter. The movement that developed from the music was obviously a very important part of the story telling, but the ribbon dancing went on a little bit longer than necessary to carry on the storyline.
The Chinese Cinderella, played by Cori Dioquino, is as lovely and sweet as she is strong and the choreography for her interactions with her fish-god fairy godmother offered a bit of magic in this fairy tale adaptation. The ‘stepsisters’ in this Chinese telling were more fully developed than their Disney counterparts and weren’t nearly as ‘evil’ as expected. Kudos to both of the stepsisters, played by Rachel Reckling and Ashlyn Thompson, for sincerely playing young women dutifully obeying an overbearing maternal figure. The way that Glass Mind approached the scenes for them trying on the glass slipper was a delightful bit of slap stick that moved the show along well, giving the audience a chance to laugh.
Transitioning into the next Cinderella tale, Elizabeth Galuardi recites a monologue that can only be described as raw. She reminds us that the ‘Cinderella’ we have all come to know, can actually be a real woman, complete with fears and flaws. She says ‘Sometimes there’s something dark inside,’ which gave this reviewer chills. No fairy princess is a full and complete woman without having a bit of the darkness. It was some solid ‘real-talk’ which the Disney version always seemed to lack.
Alex Scally has an awesome opportunity to show off some word-smithery as a train station bum. His spoken word poetry added a touch of urban class to the show. Sarah Weissman, with a lot of heart, portrayed the somewhat tenacious beggar/merchant characters who remind the audience that everybody has a place in a fairy tale. Francis Cabatac as the subway custodian wrote a beautiful piece that reinforced the feeling of disillusionment our generation is more than familiar with. The heralding of the King, played with a genuinely big heart by Justin Lawson-Isett as both the Chinese King and the Egyptian Pharaoh was a refreshing take on the idea of ‘prince charming.’
With a few pop culture jabs about vampires being the hot new thing, and that happy endings can apply to all, the audience feels a sense of satisfaction without the need for a ‘happily ever after.’ With a collaborative piece in which the performances had the opportunity to write their own dialogue, the show is a cathartic experience for the performers that they invited the audience to share in.
I did keep wondering, ‘where is the climax to this show? ‘who am I rooting for? But with the scenes in the train station, I started to connect to our eastern Cinderellas and to the cast. As only a group of disillusioned Baltimoreans performers can pull off, here is a show that struggles with the questions: Where is my happy ending? Why don’t I have a prince charming? And why aren’t more Cinderellas honest about the dark parts of themselves?
So if you like Cinderella stories, or beautiful music, or modern dance, I’d check out Glass Mind Theatre’s Adapting Cinderella. You’ll leave with an appreciation of a shared fairy tale experience, and fewer worries about finding your other glass slipper.
Adapting Cinderella runs March 9 – 25, 2012 at the LOF/t (120 W. North Ave.), on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $12 general admission, and $8 for students, seniors and artists.
Click here to purchase tickets