Spotlight: Sleeping Beauty

Rob Levine

In the car on the way home from this CTC production of Sleeping Beauty, my six-year-old explained to me the differences between the Disney movie version and what she'd seen onstage (with the unspoken assumption that the film was, you know, the real thing). The discrepancies turned out to be matters of narrative housekeeping--two witches instead of one, and differing degrees of temporal displacement. Yet Charles Way's adaptation bypasses soft-edged possibilities and instead plunges deeper into the idiosyncratic and folkloric. Autumn Ness and Annie Enneking are a pair of sister witches, one good and one evil. They take a proprietary interest in a baby abandoned in the big, bad forest primeval. When the little girl is subsequently adopted by a king and queen and christened Briar Rose, the witches place competing spells that eventually render Rose somnolent and in need of a save from hapless Prince Owain (Dean Holt). Donald Eastman's set is a massive wooden swirl that evokes rustic archetypes as well as the maze of myth, and Robert Wierzel's lighting accentuates the sense of broad vertical space on the stage while creating some nice freak-outs during the spell-casting segments. Sonja Parks plays the title role with an appealing lightness (Briar Rose spends her life either sequestered or unconscious, so it seems prudent not to try to wring too much from the role). For the adult set, much of the interest comes in the second act, when Prince Owain's quest leads him to a strange encounter with woodland fairy people (played for laughs, but with a scary undertow for those willing to consider what's really going on) and a Spider King (Gerald Drake) who resembles Ozzy in a top hat on a particularly irritable day. These scenes remind us of what's so compelling about the folklore tales that feed children's stories--they're really weird. By the end of the action in this case time has been bent, a disappearance into an alternate dimension averted, and death by arachnid dodged. If only the villains of real life would disappear into a puff of smoke.

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