The Secret in the Wings

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater

The Children’s and Household Tales was the original title that Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm bestowed upon the 1812 publication of their collection of fairytales, which is now known as the Grimms’ Fairy Tales.  And they are grim tales, indeed. But what do the Grimm stories from the 19th century have to do with Italo Calvino’s earthy 20th century tall tales? The connection or, rather, the common denominator in these century-separate narratives is the modern-day American playwright and opera director Mary Zimmerman, best known for her Tony Award- winning rehash of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Zimmerman’s synthesis of the Grimm and Calvino fairy-frights, now being staged At Fullerton’s Stages Theatre through November 4, is initiated with clever burst of theatricality by director Patti Cumby wherein the parents of Audrey leave the unnerved girl in the care of an ogre who continues to propose marriage to the child (yuck!). Between Audrey’s continued rejection of the ogre’s matrimonial pleas, he “entertains” her by reading stories aloud, which then become enacted by a capably agile ensemble.

The first story is typical of the fantastical horror of the tales that are to be told. Three pregnant queens are lost on a mountaintop and extract their own eyeballs to a mediator of the evil nursemaid who has called for the royal trios execution. Brought past the brink of insanity by their famished physical condition, two of the crown-wearers eat their babies. As they approach the next newborn in a rage of hunger, the action segues to another tale.

And so it goes from a queen who cannot laugh back to the tale-teller with a tail trailing from his rear, we in the audience are lured into what seems like a trance-like state, somewhere between dramatic ecstasy and a nightmare.

With a committed cast of nine — (Judy Mina-Ballard, David Bradbury, Paul Burt, Adam Bradley Clinton, Emily Curington, Mady Durban, Jamie Hadley, Stan Morrow, and Edgar Andrew Torrens — displaying breathtaking athleticism and top-notch line delivery, The Secret in the Wings is a theatrical Halloween treat. With Jon Gaw’s set design, Kalen Cobb’s lighting motif, Calvin Ballard’s sound design and engineering, Patti Cumby’s extraordinary costume design, Gabrielle Maldonado’s indispensable musical direction, and Edgar Andrew Torrens’s inventive choreography — it shouldn’t stay a secret that The Secret in the Wings is, as staged by Stages Theatre, a mini-masterwork in the annals of melodrama.

The Secret in the Wings continues at Stages Theatre through November 4. Stages Theatre is located at 400 East Commonwealth, Fullerton. Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (714) 525-4484. For online ticketing and further information, visit Home - STAGEStheatre