Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Tickling the Imagination: A Homespun, Handmade into the Woods in Minneapolis

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Tickling the Imagination: A Homespun, Handmade into the Woods in Minneapolis

Article excerpt

Theater Latté Da's Minneapolis staging of Into the Woods had a found-object feel, a sense of garage-sale-meets-Enchanted-Forest that gave the production a homespun, handmade charm. Scenic designer Kate Sutton-Johnson and Benjamin Olsen (credited as "properties artisan") fabricated a rough-hewn setting for Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical meditation on what follows "happily ever after." Jack's bovine friend, not quite the "cow as white as milk," was presented as a dingy gray perambulator, with a wooden bucket as Milky White's head and a dangling glove suggesting udders. When Rapunzel enchanted her Prince from afar, the "tower" was a plain wooden chair and the "window" an oval frame held by actress Kendall Anne Thompson, her long tresses spilling down into an old-fashioned wheelbarrow.

And the woods? Minnesota audiences immediately recognized them as snow fencing. The no-frills pickets-and-wire barriers that are ubiquitous along the state's rural roadways were rolled then pulled up from the center to create vertical spirals.

This utilitarian sense permeated the staging by Peter Rothstein, Latté Da's co-founder and artistic director. The company was present and visible throughout the telling of the tale. At the top of the show, the cast arrived onstage without preamble, exchanging glances and nods to the audience before launching into Act I's prologue. When characters weren't directly involved in scenes, they sat toward the back or at the sides of the stage, which was stripped of masking curtains, keeping always within sight the lights, the stage rigging, the performers and a three-piece instrumental ensemble.

Ten actors played the show's nearly two-dozen roles, and while this was certainly an economic choice, Rothstein's cagy casting decisions also tickled the imagination. Consider the psychological implications, for instance, of the rapacious Wolf, Cinderella's obnoxious prince and her malicious stepmother all embodied in one person - in this case, Peter Middlecamp, who seemed to be in perpetual motion throughout the show.

It also gave some very fine and versatile actors a chance to shine. David Darrow did the most notable double-duty as the Baker and Rapunzel's Prince. As the former, he was earnest and sympathetic, likable and vulnerable - his brow almost perpetually furrowed with duty and worry. …

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