From Don Whiteside of WeLoveDC: Jenn Larsen has been doing our reviews for Capital Fringe 2010 in partnership with DC Theater Scene, but when scheduling and venue confusion prevented her from getting to this production I agreed to pitch in. As it turns out, this was my lucky break.
Red Hood just might be the perfect Fringe production. That’s not damning with faint praise – though most of us have different expectations from a Fringe show than we would more “traditionally” produced theater – that’s my way of saying that this is the height of what Fringe can be: an opportunity to develop and perform a fantastic work on a smaller scale, potentially as a step on the way to larger venues and audiences. It’s beyond a doubt that this production deserves a larger audience and longer run.
That’s not to say Red Hood is perfect. If I was asked to wield my red pen I’d have trimmed down a few aspects and extended a few others. This re-imagining of the Little Red Riding Hood – one of many through the years, including several in film – looks at the story through the lens of sexual assault and victimization and does so well. For myself the “wartime” component seemed tacked on, contributing little to the story other than a backdrop of a region in turmoil and a moment that drives Red to make a hasty decision, but perhaps it will work better for you.
It’s a minor quibble with the play that doesn’t detract anything from its other good qualities and the fantastic performances, directing, and stagecraft. The use of puppets in the show – who act as Little Red Riding Hood, her mother, and her grandmother – is wonderfully done, with the beautiful and expressive full-scale puppets creating another layer for the story and invoking the repeating cycle of victimization.
They’re well handled by everyone, but in particular Simona Curiurianu as Red seems to have been born to puppetry. The Wolf is just as brilliantly personified by John Robert Kenna, who exudes sex appeal and menace while moving through the set without seeming to be touched by gravity. Marietta Elaine Hedges gets her chance to shine as a sketchy pharmacist and Eli Sebley is the invaluable but never sufficiently appreciated utility player, picking up every other piece that needs to be precisely placed around the rest of the cast.
If my gushing has spilled over the edge of your monitor and gotten onto your desk, my apologies, but I can’t recommend this show enough. It’s the kind of thing that makes me wish I could go back and see it again for the first time. After asking myself multiple times over the last year “why does this need to be on stage?” it’s nice to have a show answer “because this is the only venue where all this could be accomplished.”
Red Hood: Once Upon a Wartime
original production conceived by Ksenya Litvak and Jeffrey Sichel for the UNESCO Chair ITI Asia/Pacific Regional Performance Exposition at The Shanghai Theatre Academy, Shanghai Cgina, Summer, 2009
directed by Ryan Whinnem
reviewed by Don Whiteside
Running time: 60 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?