Brother Grimm is in the Basement--Dreams and Drawings From the Land of Faerie | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Brother Grimm is in the Basement--Dreams and Drawings From the Land of Faerie


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BROTHER GRIMM IS IN THE BASEMENT--DREAMS AND DRAWINGS FROM THE LAND OF FAERIE, Free Associates, at the Royal George Theatre Center. This laborious family-oriented improv show reminds us that imagination can transport a child from a bad situation into a "happily ever after" ending. Too bad the moral comes after audience members' creative powers have been inhibited: we're instructed to draw castles, princes, frogs, and magic keys in the posters meant to inspire the show's improvisation, probably because suitable items fill the props and costumes cupboard backstage. On the day I saw the show, princes and other creatures were questing for a greater understanding of joy, love, and beauty.

In the show's tedious framing device, Brother Grimm is locked in his basement by a shrewish stepmother because he speaks only in the style of fairy tales. All of his stories end, well, grimly, but creator-director Scott Woldman probably didn't intend the improvisations to be grim too. Sometimes the actors' silliness works, but it's not good when a family show's few laughs come mainly from a double entendre only adults will get. As the ensemble struggles to keep dull, painfully slow scenes moving forward, we're left to wish our imaginations really could transport us to some faraway land.

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