Saturday, February 1, 2014

Theater: Glassheart - A Very Different Beauty & The Beast (& Fairy Tale Friend Megan Reichelt Is Getting Rave Reviews For Her Performance!)

One of our beloved fairy tale news-blog friends, Megan Reichelt of The Dark Forest, is busy bringing magic to the stage and "illuminating" a different side to this beloved fairy tale (sorry, Megan - the puns are difficult to resist!) in the company of Rorschach Theatre. The play is titled Glassheart, and was written and created by Reina Hardy.

While Rorschach's production of Beauty and the Beast doesn't have singing silverware, flirtatious furniture or dancing dinner plates, it does have a one last magical servant of The Beast's, who keeps him company in this after-the-failed-fairy-tale story. 

She's a quirky, upbeat and particularly chatty lamp, named "Only" (thanks to a random dictionary choice) and actually has a hat that lights up, underscoring her magical nature [and potential] as well as the hope and dreams within her. In her own way, she helps bring the truth to light, (again - very sorry!), including truths about herself. This delightful and layered character is being played by our dear Ms. Reichelt - and getting great reviews on her performance to boot! 

Here's a blurb remix (multiple blurbs, re-blurbed into one):
Beauty never showed up, so the Beast... left. Now, holed up in a tiny, shabby Chicago apartment near a 7-11, with his only remaining magical servant and friend, a lamp, he waits; hoping for lower cost of living and better luck with girls. The downstairs neighbor has a band, the landlady makes suspiciously delicious gingerbread, then one day, a U-Haul arrives… 
In the space between now and always, GLASSHEART confronts the universal uncertainties of love, fate and free-will and a relentlessly cheery lamp discovers what - and who - must be sacrificed for an ordinary life.
Much of what I've seen with regard to this particular production of Glassheart, and the talented cast, shows a fun and creative approach to both the craft and in bringing the story to magical life. 

Here's an excerpt from a (somewhat cheeky) review by the Washington City Paper, explaining a little more of the thrust of the play:
In Glassheart... (the Beast) has traded in his castle for a Chicago walk-up, the kind bookstore clerks can afford. This we know because the sleep-deprived manic pixie dream girl who just moved in next door has come to work in a bookstore. The beast’s lamp—apparently the last of the walking, talking home appliances who like their master yearn to be restored to human form—is determined to play matchmaker because, as you’ll recall, only true love can break the curse that reduced a shallow prince to a drooling, shedding, feral monster, at least part of the time.
I must recommend reading this review HERE by the MDTheaterGuide for a great overview. As it discusses the performances more than the actual story it's difficult to clip excerpts to be posted out of context that still make sense, so just go read it. Although brief, it explains a lot of the nuances of the story as portrayed by the company.
Even though this retelling is set in a modern apartment in downtown bustling Chicago, with the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale front and center and the small, but obvious impossibility/magic of Lamp/Only a crucial part, it would be easy to feel this was disconnected from the real world, but one of the things I love most about it is how very "now" this play feels. Somehow it is both magical yet modern. Tweeting, Facebooking and "Vining" various aspects of the production help that too, giving it a life beyond the performance space. 

Take a look at some of the tweets from the rehearsals (you can get a personal behind-the-scenes look and meet the cast - with extra fairy tale questions bonus! - via Megan HERE), along with some more great performance shots (note: the rose pot is the last remnant of the Beast's castle, so you can intuit a little more significance when you see it in the photos):
Had to add this one, even though it wasn't technically in the rehearsal tweets!
Tell me you're not intrigued!

Here's what Reina Hardy (the playwright and creator of Glassheart, among other productions) said about Glassheart when interviewed by the Austin Chronicle last year:
AC: Regarding Glassheart: What made you want to bring those Beauty and the Beast characters into our reality? 
RH: It's just one of those things that gets into your head and stays there, worrying you until it turns into a play. I was very taken with the idea of the Beast's reduced circumstances, and of making the magical servant the main character, and I tend to write a lot of plays that imply there's a lot more to the world than what most people notice. ...Glassheart is about broken, scared people trying to be human.
Here's an excerpt from an article, again by the Austin Chronicle, on the premiere production of the show (ie, this is from Shrewd Productions and NOT Megan's current staging), explaining a little of the plot and the characters (note: the pic is also from the premiere production, not Rorschach Theater's):
Hardy's take on the fairy tale is intriguing and seems to relish in its own magic. Through the many years, the lamp and the Beast have developed a curiously loving relationship in which he regularly barks and snarls, but he also reads to her from the light that she gives off. In fact, the Beast is a true bibliophile. Some of the most endearing moments of Glassheart come when the Beast abandons his animalistic grunts and growls in favor of an earnest love of stories and books. The neighbor, Aoife, has come to Chicago to work at a bookstore (natch), and her quirkiness allows her an entrée into the fairy-tale world. She has the patience to tolerate the weirdness in the Beast's apartment and the loneliness necessary to give him a chance.
Throughout this story looms the presence of the witch, an odd, powerful woman with desires of her own. Evil she may be, but she's also a character with deep and sympathetic desires. Her efforts to manipulate the story away from the conventionally happy ending form the conflict of Glassheart.
And just to show you the sense of humor this play is being done with, I just had to include some cast roars... (after the jump... it autoplays but the sound is muted until you choose it not to be.)

I'm also going to add a somewhat spoilery overview of the story (though the ultimate ending is kept secret), so if you - like me - are unable to get to the show and satisfy your curiosity, hopefully it will take the edge off, as well as show you more about why Megan is so very excited about doing this (and we for her!).
✒ ✒ ✒  ✒ ✒ ✒  ✒ (click the "Read more" link below this line for more) ✒ ✒ ✒ ✒  ✒ ✒ ✒  ✒
Want to hear the roaring? Click on the little x'ed out sound button in the upper left corner. (Gosh I miss theater!)

I'm going to include a little more info (now that we're after the jump) which might be considered spoilery, as I know many people will be super curious and, not being in the area, will be unable to go to the play and satisfy their curiosity. Here is a little about Reina Hardy's script from the advance press release:
“Rorschach has always been driven to works that are both timeless and contemporary. Reina Hardy’s sharp, smart new play embodies that exciting duality. Starting with this ancient tale of a beast searching for his beauty, she explodes the archetypes as she places them in a contemporary urban landscape of grungy apartments, bookstore jobs and questionable landlords. It’s there, in the space between now and always, that the play confronts universal human questions of love, fate and free-will.”
And here's a summary/overview of the play from the Dramatist's Guild. Although it doesn't reveal the end, it gives you a good idea of what's at stake as the end approaches:
“Beauty never showed up. After centuries under the curse, the Beast [played here by Andrew Keller] and his one remaining magical servant [Megan Reichelt] have moved into a shabby apartment near a 7-11, hoping for a lower cost of living and better luck with girls. Their building manager [the aforementioned Lynette Rathnam], a fellow immigrant with a taste for gingerbread and children, offers help in navigating this threatening, impossible, completely mundane world, but all her gifts come with a price. When an eligible maiden [Natalie Cutcher] moves into the second floor apartment, the servant (a relentlessly cheery lamp) colludes with the landlady to kidnap the girl. The servant finds herself assimilating the girl’s identity, her name, and bookstore job. As she becomes increasingly human the Beast becomes increasingly lost, she discovers what-- and who-- must be sacrificed for an ordinary life.
No wonder Megan has been so excited about doing this! It clearly has appeal, not only to people who love Beauty and the Beast and fairy tales, but has a lot to say to everyone else as well.

For more information on performances and tickets, head over to Rorschach Theater's official webpage HERE.
Congrats Megan and cast! It looks wonderful, a lot of fun and I couldn't be happier for all the wonderful reviews you guys have been getting.


1 comment:

  1. I wish I were in the DC area - I'd love to see this!