Faction of Fools’ usual abundance of silliness reaches new heights in Paul Reisman’s Foolish Fairytales. The puns, the double entendres, mixed messages and general tomfoolery are so effective because of the special touch of this company.
While in some ways, commedia dell’arte is an acquired taste with the masks and clownish schtick, this troupe adds so much artistry, cultural awareness and salient knowledge of funny bone comedy that they have a way of going where others simply have not gone before.
This collection of foolish fairytales is an example. Jack and Jill, played wonderfully by company members Danny Cackley and Kathryn Zoerb, start off as squabbling siblings who roughhouse too much to fetch anything, let alone a pail of water. But keep up because before before you know it, Mom, nicely played by Tamieka Chavis, starts practicing with her wand, sends Jack off with magic beans, and cloaks Jill in a red hood to visit her ailing grandmother. Meanwhile, seasoned Fools performer Jack Novak has a field day as the Fox constantly mistaken for the notorious Wolf who has the dickens of a time trying to stay out of the way and live his life. The tales entrap and entice him into one madcap story after another with hilarious results.
The fractured foolish fairytales start, blend and morph into each other in fun passages. The new script by Paul Reisman who also directs, starts with old familiar characters but then adds twists and turns with word play or physical banter, or both. All of the sudden, poof, you’re in new territory.
King Midas has fun with his touch, but then Rumpelstiltskin tries to get some flax to gold action. Thanks to some errant wand waving, three wise cracking South Jersey sounding blind mice turn into pigs with their dwelling construction issues. Then before you know it, they’re bears getting ransacked by a rambunctious little blond girl who is comfortably entitled to having everything she wants just right. The call and response Marco-Polo repeats as an endearing refrain. The Pied Piper blows his horn and the mice run for cover. There’s also a smattering of Motown’s “Respect” along with other tunes and jingles. And how in the world Reisman was familiar enough with some “Shut ‘Yo Mouth” Shaft is beyond me, but bless his soul, even Isaac Hayes isn’t safe from the Fools. The jokes and puns zoom by so fast, you’re reeling with laughter from one clever bit only to get gobsmacked by another.
closes December 23, 2017
Details and tickets
Costumes by Lynly A Saunders are elegantly made with sumptuous material, fine handiwork and layered construction whether it’s a fully gathered bodice dress and apron for Mom or long golden brocade robe for King Midas. The fox’s attire is a work of art, especially his curvaceously gorgeous upright bushy tail. The set’s mauve backdrop of curtain panels is perfect for speedy entrances and exits.
The Fools received a 2012 Helen Hayes as an Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company, and their creative juices are still going strong with Cherry Orchard scheduled in the Spring. Considering the sweet depth they brought to Our Town last season, can’t wait to see what they do with Chekhov.
In these days of rage, Faction of Fools brings well needed comic relief to ease the ongoing assaults to sensibilities. They describe commedia dell’arte as “…theatre at its best with physical discipline, spontaneous imagination, collaborative energy, and joyous wonder.” The byline for the current show is “Hilariously Ever After.” Ahh, how fabulously foolish. With their level of sophistication, there’s something for everyone, from slapstick to thought-provoking satire. As such the Fools assure family fun, complete with smiles at all levels and sizes.
Foolish Fairytales . Written and Directed by Paul Reisman . Cast: Danny Cackley, Kathryn Zoerb, Tamieka Chavis, Jack Novak . Masks: Aaron Cromie . Costume Design: Lynly A. Saunders . Lighting: Jason Aufdem-Brinke . Music: Jesse Terrill . Stage Manager: Tarythe Albrecht . Produced by Faction of Fools . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.