Fairy Tales Are Not for Children, WNEP Theater, and Moose Mating, Aileron Creative, Ltd., and No Waiting Theatre Company, at WNEP Theater. The title is pure overstatement: of course most fairy tales aren't for children. Grimm's tales, Heinrich Hoffmann's Der Struwwelpeter, Christina Rosetti's "Goblin Market"--these are genuinely terrifying, nightmare-inducing stories. Even Aesop's fables disseminate their morals in a mechanical way that bypasses compassion and sentiment. No, fairy tales are first and foremost for calculating parents, who--as the Gingerbread Man aptly points out in Michael Cadnum's Can't Catch Me--just "want you in the stove."
Cadnum's one-act--one of three on this program--recasts the Gingerbread Man as a motivational speaker recounting his near-death experience. Half the fun is seeing Steve Lund take the stage in Noah Ginex's Gumby-like foam costume. But Can't Catch Me is also the sharpest piece of the bunch--and the only one that doesn't overstay its welcome. David Mamet's The Frog Prince offers a surprisingly reverent take on the original, though it often feels like a mash note fleshed out with elliptical patter. And Billy Aronson's Little Red Riding Hood, a Freudian deconstruction of the protagonist's sexual awakening, is too self-conscious and choppy to sustain interest. Director Dave Stinton and his cast offer brisk, expertly performed versions of these three pieces, but considering the hot streak WNEP has been on lately, "Fairy Tales Are Not for Children" seems too safe, a polite distraction from its fearless work.
David Grae's Moose Mating also puts a spin on the tried and true. But his take on the predatory mating habits of twentysomethings is too reductive; his protagonist--a Reader journalist and hack actor--comes across like Charlie Brown mooning over the Little Red-Haired Girl. Half the play's dialogue is choked out in dramatic asides (a problem director Lisa Scheps attempts to address with a multimedia staging). But the play's biggest stumbling block is that there aren't really enough words to capture the nuances of a doomed romance. One genuinely poetic visual moment--a video image of Bogie and Bergman embracing--is all it takes to reduce Grae's script to a pile of navel-gazing mush.