Seven dwarves get angsty. Little Red dances between victim and dominatrix. A snake gets beaten, a witch gets shot, a gangster street tot pushes magic baby powder, a mahm from suburban Boston gets wicked clevah and the "Black Bride and the White Bride" gets wicked post-racial in "Grimm," Company One’s collection of updated fairy tales penned by a who’s who of celebrated playwrights.
"Grimm" is a variety showâ€”a themed collage of commissioned one-acts. Contributors include Gregory Maguire, who wrote the novel from which the musical "Wicked" was adapted; Marcus Gardley a young multiple award-winning poet-playwright from the west coast; Melinda Lopez, whose "Sonia Flew" one every award Boston bestows upon playwrights, and past Company One contributors: Lydia Diamond, author of "The Bluest Eye" as well as the Huntington’s recent success, "Stick Fly," John Kutz, the ubiquitous actor and writer whose recent Company One credits include "After School Special" and the Super Heroine Monologues;" John Oluwole ADEekoje, who’s most recent Company One mounted plays were "The Overwhelming" and "Six Rounds Six Lessons;" and Kristen Greenidge the Company One playwright-in-residence whose most recently staged work was "The Gibson Girl."
"Grimm" showcases these stars as much as possible. Each gets a chance to introduce his or her play via recording, further author’s notes are available in the program, and complete "Grimm" scripts are available for sale in the lobby. While much of the fun comes in seeing how different, how characteristic and how unique each adaptation is, the evening is really sold by a ceaselessly energetic and inventive ensemble cast comprised of Company One members Mason Sand and Mark Vanderzee, a collection of non-resident company favorites and a couple of young newcomers from the Boston area. The actors double (or triple) up on roles, slipping comfortably into each varied style and mining each script for it maximum of comedy and drama. Much credit is due here to directors of alternating shorts, Summer L. Williams and Shawn LaCount.
It’s got to be said that in terms of writing, these mini one-acts turn out to be pretty uneven. Greenidge’s play, which adapts an the obscure tale "Clever Else" into a dark comedy about a trio of local moms, locked in a passive aggressive feud as they wait for their daughters to come out of ballet practice, is the most ambitious and well realized. You know these people, and the play’s actors prove that they really know these people, yet as mundane lower-class suburbanites, these women are characters we rarely see on stage. Kuntz’s take on the much-explored "Little Red Riding Hood" offers a very differently daring look at sex roles which keeps you squirming and guessing.
Then there’s Diamond’s overly self-referential reading of a Grimm’s tale with racist and sexist overtones through a lens of political correctness, by actors with think volumes in their laps, and the tales of Gardley and ADEkoje, which are goofy and often hilarious, but ultimately feel a bit more frivolous.
That said, the night’s got a lot going for it. You know these are good stories. You know they’ve got memorable characters. They’ve followed you since you were a child. It’s fun and its’ stimulating to meet them as adults. Especially when they get modern sensibilities to match your own.