Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'Into the Woods' and EPAC on the Edge

Come “Into the Woods” with EPAC

Into the woods / Without delay,
But careful not / To lose the way.
Into the woods, / Who knows what may
Be lurking on the journey?
Into the woods / To get the thing
That makes it worth / The journeying. …”


“Prologue” (Sondheim)

Want to find out what “thing” each of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy-tale characters is journeying “into the woods” to find? Then don’t miss the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical “Into the Woods,” which opens at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre Thursday night (April 28) and runs until May 14.

From a fertility-challenged couple to a spell-casting witch, from a cape-clad girl to a couple of princes in “agony” over their life choices, these characters will get you quickly involved in their sylvan journey.

I sat in on a rehearsal of the show last week, and loved it! Don’t miss the chance to see a great production of an interesting piece of theater. The production is well cast, well acted and well sung … and generally funny, entertaining and touching. Cast members really sink their teeth into that challenging Sondheim score, and travel sure-footedly over some formidable stage geography. This intricate show depends on a large group of actors having great timing – and great traffic control and EPAC’s production has both in spades!

One of the things I look forward to in each new production of “Into the Woods” is seeing how certain bits of stage business will be handled. How will Little Red be rescued from the Wolf’s stomach? In what form will the birds appear, to speak to Cinderella? What will Milky White (the cow) look like? I can guarantee you’ll be entertained by how cleverly this production deals with it all.

When I start wiping away tears during a rehearsal, I can be confident that the finished show will really get to me. I had remembered the tragedies that befall the fairy-tale characters in Act II. What I didn’t recall until I watched the rehearsal is how touching the songs are in the second act, as sung by a small group of the characters dealing with the consequences of their actions. Watching them bond over their plight – and work together to survive – is a delight.

Finally, every time I see “Into the Woods,” another layer of meaning opens up for me as a viewer. The show touches on the characters’ quests and personal choices, and the consequences of those choices. The show imagines the alternative endings that well-known fairy tales might have in the real world. It’s about the importance of stories and storytellers in our lives. It’s about how we pass life lessons on to children; about the power of community, and about getting on with life after you’ve been dealt a terrible hand.

Be sure to listen carefully to the Baker’s Wife’s song, “Moments in the Woods,” in Act II. Hearing those lyrics during EPAC’s 1995 production of “Into the Woods” helped open up even more layers in the piece for me. We need our quotidian lives in order to appreciate those special moments in the woods, and we need the woods to appreciate what’s special about our everyday lives.

Oh, if life were made of moments, /
Even now and then a bad one-! /
But if life were only moments, /
Then you'd never know you had one. …”


"Moments in the Woods" (Sondheim)

To help you get into the mood for the show, check out the promotional video on the EPAC website (click on the "Into the Woods" icon). Check out the EPAC cast of “Into the Woods” here.

Call the EPAC box office at 733-7966, ext. 1, for tickets, or visit the website.

Getting Edgy with EPAC

A Tony-nominated play is the next offering in the “EPAC on the Edge” series of staged readings for adult audiences.

Douglas Carter Beane’s witty, topical comedy “The Little Dog Laughed,” which was nominated for the Best Play Tony in 2007, will be presented at 8 p.m. Monday, May 9. Your ticket includes a 7:30 p.m. wine-and-cheese reception before the show.

The show concerns Mitchell, an actor on the verge of Hollywood stardom; Diane, his sarcastic lesbian agent, and Alex and Ellen, a male hustler and his girlfriend. Diane is worried that Mitchell’s physical relationship with Alex will torpedo his burgeoning career.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Call the box office at 733-7966. NOTE: This show is for ADULTS ONLY; it contains nudity and adult language.

Fascinating fact from this week’s New York Times: Douglas Carter Beane was the script doctor for the new “Sister Act” musical on Broadway. See the Times story here.

Saturday with Suzanne

Columbia-born comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer blew into EPAC Saturday, April 16, amid some hair-raising, stormy weather. But she didn’t let the heavy rain beating down on the theater’s roof stop her from delivering a virtuoso comedy performance that had the audience howling with laughter for close to an hour and a half. The sold-out show was a fundraiser for the theater.

EPAC thanks everyone who came out in the storm to enjoy Suzanne’s unique take on everything from her very religious sister to her recent breakup to the way different generations approach Gay Pride events. We thank Suzanne for graciously posing for photos, signing autographs and chatting with her fans in the lobby for such a long time after the show ended.


# Mary Ellen “Merv” Wright