The Secret in the Wings | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Secret in the Wings


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The Secret in the Wings, Lookingglass Theatre Company. Mary Zimmerman's remount of her 1991 meditation on fairy tales is charming, funny, skillfully cast, cleverly designed--and as thoroughly empty an evening of theater as I've seen lately. This slight, self-conscious work has little to say about fairy tales, here drawn mostly from the dustier corners of the Grimm brothers canon, that hasn't already been said by theorists like Bruno Bettelheim and poets like Anne Sexton.

Zimmerman's thesis boils down to "Boy, these stories sure are scary and twisted, but kinda cool too, huh?" It's a thesis that's completely inarguable, and hence dramatically inert. The nine cast members, six of whom were in the original production, look good and do their best to engage with the material. But adapter-director Zimmerman seems more interested in shtick from the actors' undergrad days--like David Kersnar's hilarious party-trick impression of a lizard--than she is in tapping the characters' deeper impulses. Too many segments involve stylized vocal and physical repetitions that don't enliven the script but rather flatten it like a tin can under an 18-wheeler.

Only non-Lookingglass member Tony Fitzpatrick thoroughly enchants. He plays both a harried father whose desire for silence condemns his seven sons to live as swans and a crusty ogre, complete with comically long tail courtesy of costume designer Mara Blumenfeld, sent to babysit a precocious girl.

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