Epic Delivers a Punch with The Terrifying Tales of the Brothers Grimm

grimmHave I mentioned that I love black box theater? It is, in my opinion, the rawest and most intimate form of theater. Take a room, some black paint, chairs; fill it with hard-working performers and voila! You have a night of something truly magical. The element of a story, stripped down to the bones. I enjoy that there can’t be a load of intricate sets or a light show that would make Pink Floyd green with envy. It’s about the work, plain and simple. And what a piece of work Epic Theatre has presented. Epic’s October piece is a world premiere, The Terrifying Tale of the Brothers Grimm by Andy Boyd.

Before I go on about this fantastic production, I have to talk about the script. Epic’s artistic director, Kevin Broccoli, wanted a show that would fit in with Halloween, and what is better than the Grimm brothers? Broccoli wrote a title, The Terrifying Tale of the Brothers Grimm, and with that in mind went to work on a script. After his attempts felt more like children’s theater, he commissioned Andy Boyd to write the script. Boyd, a graduate student studying playwriting in New York, was up to the task. It was after a couple of drafts that Boyd came up with the pitch that changed Epic’s season. What if the play used fairy tales to mirror the lives of the characters? What if they are a group of Czech dissidents staging a show they hope to get past the censors in 1975? Although Broccoli wasn’t sure that the title went with the pitch, he gave Boyd the “go ahead” and within a few moths Epic had what Broccoli feels “might be the strongest script of the season.” (And he says this as the playwright of two of Epic’s shows this season.) I can’t say enough about this script. It is one of those scripts that as you watch it unfold, you wish you had written. If you love theater, history or stories about passion, this is the script for you. And if you still aren’t sure, head over to Epic’s Facebook page. They posted the script in its entirety, and it’s worth a read.

I was excited to see that Kathleen Lester was chosen to direct this piece. I know Lester is a powerhouse in children’s theater, so I looked forward to seeing what she would bring to the play. The play mingles fairy tales with politics, and when the actors have to switch to the play, they resembled a professional children’s theater. There’s a danger for these moments to look campy, but in Lester’s professional hands, they are funny, and at times poignant. She staged the play everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Seats, the rows, the lighting and sound booth. Lester’s direction was fabulous, smart and creative.

This is an ensemble show with six characters who weave in and out of 1968 and 1975 seamlessly. There are three strong women in this show. Let’s begin with Mary Beth Kim, and wow — can she do it all. She had me laughing from the beginning; yes — she even managed to make a curtain speech funny. However, two of her flashback scenes were so gut-wrenchingly sad that you can feel her sorrow far more than you expect to when watching a play. Vanessa Blanchette plays Katerina Illych from the “Bohemian Association for the Preservation and Dissemination of Traditional Arts,” in other words, the censor. She is where the title fits the most; she is so creepy that she is terrifying. In one scene, which I won’t describe so I don’t spoil anything for you, she seriously give the audience chills. Sarah Reed is a fantastic comedic actress; however, it must also be noted that her dramatic chops are top-notch. An amazing and truthful performance.

Greg Geer’s performance has you laughing one moment and holding your breath the next. Rudy Sanda’s performance as Pavel packs a punch. His character unravels in a state of fear and paranoia, and it is breathtaking to watch. And finally, and certainly not least, is Patrick Keefe. In a particularly lovely moment, the opening scene to be exact, his character speaks to that youthful exuberance and theater lover in all of us.

What an ensemble! I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them on stage.

If you haven’t seen The Terrifying Tales of the Brothers Grimm, you are doing yourself a grave injustice. From the stellar directing to the clever and thoughtful script, and six strong performances, you don’t want to miss this one!

The Terrifying Tales of The Brothers Grimm runs Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17 at 82 Rolfe Square in Cranston. For tickets go to artists-exchange.org/epictheatrecompany.

One response to “Epic Delivers a Punch with The Terrifying Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

  1. Beth Mackey says:

    Love the writer's enthusiasm for this play !

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