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A CurtainUp Review
Bluebeard and Other Less Grisly Tales of Love
by Louisa Whitfield
Although the themes in this play supposedly "run the gamut from sexy…to the shockingly grisly," Bluebeard and Other Less Grisly Tales of Love is a show that certainly appeals to a younger imagination. The show's "embellished and revised" versions of four well-known fairy tales cleverly incorporate dance, puppetry, even song (as with "The Fairy Abduction") to weave together extremely beautiful tales. Music in the play is provided by the band Plague to Prague, and this live, intimate situation creates a warm setting for both the audience as well as the actors on stage.
The most exceptional thing about this production is how one is drawn instantly into a surreal, child-like world with the mixed medium effect of puppets, dance and live music. As "Opening" begins, we watch a tiny puppet-maiden creep slowly across the stage, dressed in a gauzy white gown. She disappears stage left, only to reappear a little further upstage, this time as an identical version but just a little bit bigger. Thus we watch an ingenious mimicry of perspective, as the maiden approaches, crossing stage right, to stage left, until she becomes her full-sized self: a human being.
The show is filled with wonderful techniques like this, and it is these clever solutions the stage collaborators have come up with that make the show a pleasure to watch. We see a long trail of a white wedding gown become little mountain peaks across which a tiny horse and carriage traverse; we see a long trail of blue cloth -- tugged at on each end by an actor -- become an enraged sea. Anne Carnevale's set design is equally lovely, and in true fairy tale style incorporates everything from gnarled, nightmarish trees to grass-covered spheres. After "Opening", the tales are: "Bluebeard," "The Pigeon Princess," "The Fairy Abduction" and "The Sea Nymph".
While Bluebeard's strengths lie in its mesmerizing choreography (Annie Arnoult) and visual art (Sam Lieb) rather than its acting, it seems not to be of consequence. The actors are sincere, and silly, and gushing, and all those good things that seem necessary to tell a good fairy tale. For anyone who nostalgically recalls the books their mother or father used to read them when they were children, for anyone who remembers dressing up and playing imaginary games as a child, or for anyone who vividly and fondly remembers their dreams, Bluebeard and Other Less Grisly Tales of Love is for you.