Swedish Folk Tales, Swedish American Museum. The original versions of fairy tales are usually darker than the Disney renderings, yet adapter-director Kate Hawley has not toned down the grimmer aspects of the six Swedish folktales in this family-oriented production. A magic fiddle forces people to dance until they die, trolls are intent on gobbling humans, and a greedy king tries to lure a young man to his death. The ensemble members (especially Jan Sodaro as an old woman and Harry Eddleman as a very intense fiddler) take their roles so seriously they can be frightening--a lighter touch might make the tales more palatable to children. Brighter performances are given by Dean Cechvala and Chantelle Daniel, amusing as a fleet-footed runner who puts lead blocks on her feet.
The slow, disjointed early stories are acted out, not told, and may confuse anyone who doesn't have at least a passing familiarity with them (the younger audience members at the show I saw were restless). But once narration is added halfway through, the tales gain a spark of magic and become full-bodied enchantments. Hawley and costume designer Kim Fencl Rak have created delightful puppets, transforming ensemble members into gnarled trolls, floating sprites, and a giant polar bear. A rolling, swaying boat--cleverly designed but not credited--turns the museum's first-floor gallery into an ocean.