Dragontales | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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DRAGONTALES, Factory Theater Company. A great deal of discipline went into this imaginative 65-minute mime, mask, and movement piece. Written and directed by Molly Brennan--one of the Factory's most dedicated adapters and performers--this whimsical play intertwines three dragon-related tales and features 40 prickly and primitive masks by Brennan and Ryan Oliver. The principal prop, however, is a fairly convincing dragon puppet operated by three busy actors.

The first tale, "Inside," is performed entirely in mime and bursts with bristling dances performed with wooden spears: it shows what happens when the disguised child of a dragon is inducted into a tribe of dragon hunters. "The Three Clever Brothers" is an especially grim Brothers Grimm fairy tale about three ingenious brothers who steal a princess from the dragon that abducted her, then sew her mouth shut, murder her mother, and take over the kingdom. "D&D" reveals how two nerdy teenagers transform themselves during a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing contest and meet characters from the two earlier tales before resuming their now not-so-geeky lives.

Paying homage to dragons past and present, Brennan astutely balances the stylized storytelling of the first tale against the sly machinery of the second, then gently mocks the genre with the third, punctuated by exaggerated broadsword fights, shouting, and grotesque gymnastics. In sync with Ken Fountain and Neil Gustafson's sound design, the nine masked performers concentrate on movement that's supple, menacing, and never dull. --Lawrence Bommer

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