Into the Woods: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Into the woods we go again in Fiasco Theater’s cozied, modestly pleasing revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1987 musical. Since the production arrives hot on the gold-slippered heels of a 2012 Central Park revival and a new movie, there’s not much shock left in what Into the Woods itself does with such folktale icons as Cinderella (Claire Karpen), Little Red Riding Hood (Emily Young) and the beanstalk-climbing Jack (Patrick Mulryan): The mash-up of the first act becomes a squash-up in the second as an angry giant wreaks havoc, and everyone’s happy endings turn out to be built on sand (or burial grounds). The element of surprise now stems mainly from Fiasco’s ingenuity, as 11 performers (including Jennifer Mudge as the Witch) divvy up all the roles and narration and also play the instruments. The trees are ropes, arranged to suggest the innards of a piano; Rapunzel’s hair is yellow yarn; the Princes double as Cinderella’s stepsisters, with window-curtain dresses still on their rod.
This Into the Woods looks like it was officially sponsored by Etsy and has the vibe of a college show put on by friends who have cast themselves in parts they might not otherwise play: Jessie Austrian makes a gutsy Baker’s Wife, but her directors and fellow Fiasco leaders, Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, are less effective. Still, the show’s dorm-spun style is often amusing, even if most of the humor happens to the side of the material. (Andy Grotelueschen milks the part of an obstinate cow for all its worth.) And the personal, low-key approach does very well by the musical’s notoriously difficult denouement; the complex wisdom of the play’s traumatized conclusion emerges with simple, moving clarity. For fans of this woundingly prickly musical, Fiasco’s account is worth another journey.—Adam Feldman
Laura Pels Theatre (see Off Broadway). Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. Directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 35mins. One intermission.
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