Entertainment » Theatre

Into the Woods

by Kayla Miller
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Sep 11, 2011
Rapunzel (Jamie Wood Katz) embraces the Witch (Angela Robinson) who acts as her mother and keeps her confined in a towner, in Alliance Theatere’s production of "Into the Woods"
Rapunzel (Jamie Wood Katz) embraces the Witch (Angela Robinson) who acts as her mother and keeps her confined in a towner, in Alliance Theatere’s production of "Into the Woods"  (Source:Greg Mooney)

What do Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack (of the famed "Jack and the Giant Beanstalk"), and an unfortunate barren couple have in common? Sure, they're all members of various children's stories, but apart from the shared thread of being set in a land "far, far away," these characters tend to stay confined to their separate chapters of the classic "Grimm's Fairy Tales." That is, until you trek Into the Woods, playing through October 2 at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre.

"Into the Woods" intertwines these familiar tales into something slightly more sinister, though certainly no less entertaining. The first act begins with several stories happening at once: we are simultaneously submerged in Cinderella's quest to go to the Prince's festival, Little Red Riding Hood's hike through the forest to visit her ailing grandmother, Jack's trip to the city to sell his beloved (though dry as a bone) cow Milky White, and a Baker and his wife who desperately desire for children.

While seemingly distinct, all of the character's deepest wishes prompt them to delve into the woods in search of what they most desire. Though the audience is reminded early on that "the woods are just trees" and that there is little to fear, the winding path leading into the woods leaves lingering doubts.

The true thrust of the play comes in the form of a haggard-looking witch (Angela Robinson), whose curse on the Baker (Mark Price) is wont to break by his collecting (or stealing) objects from the play's other characters.

At the play's onset, Robinson is a humped and gnarled witch reminiscent of "Pan's Labyrinth"; though by its close, she has transformed into a beautiful, though no less cunning, mortal. As a witch as well as a diva, Robinson garners the most applause by the end of the night.

Though the audience is reminded early on that "the woods are just trees" and that there is little to fear, the winding path leading into the woods leaves lingering doubts.

Additionally, though there are plenty of comedic setups throughout "Into the Woods," Robinson is a delight, particularly when the witch makes her debut while rapping about the animosity between herself and the Baker's household.

At the close of the first act, these fairy tales end in the usual way: with wishes granted, villains defeated, and a cast of characters content to "live happily ever after." The second act, however, introduces a more interesting element into the mix: human failure.

What should have been an eternity of happiness quickly dwindles into a hodgepodge of backstabbing and deceit on the part of our protagonists. The seeds of humanity's capacity for wrongdoing planted in Act I (most notably through self-centered actions, such as the Baker's wife's insistence that "the end justifies the beans,") are harvested in Act II with dire consequences.

Each of the character's various wishes are complicated by the actions of another, leading the audience to the realistic but melancholy-for-a-kid's-story conclusion that yes, the woods are just trees.

What should be truly feared is not the darkness of a wood, nor even fear itself. "Into the Woods" teaches its audience that, above these, humanity's own foolhardy selfishness should cause us to tremble.

"Into the Woods" plays through October 2 at Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree Street, NE, in Atlanta. For info or tickets call 404-733-4650 or visit www.thealliancetheatre.org

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