Fractured fairy tale
Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants
Written and Directed by Duncan Pflaster
Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)
June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th St., 1st floor
Equity showcase (through
Review by Michael D. Jackson
The description that follows the title on the program sums it up pretty well: “A big epic naked ridiculous Shakespearean fairy tale play for adults.” This is the kind of insanity that Charles Busch used to do. The genre that writer and director Duncan Pflaster is sending up this time seems to be children’s theatre. The ensemble is not unlike a troupe hopping from one cafitorium to another, pulling their odd collection of Elizabethan-meets-storybook costumes and fake crowns out of a trunk to assimilate the world of kings and queens and a little magic. This time, however, it’s not for the kids, but would best be suited on a cabaret stage in a gay bar where this kind of camp is most welcome.
More importance is laid upon the style of the piece than the telling of a good story, but what story there is harks back to the world of Restoration Comedy. The plot concerns King Kartoffelpuffen (Eric C. Bailey), who gives up this kingdom to his oldest of three sons, Tater (Jon Crefeld). Another son, Tonsure (Chris C. Cariker), is sent off to a monastery, while the youngest son, Trevor (Carlos Rafael Fernandez) is sent off to marry Queen Bluebella (Paula Galloway). Trevor is very unhappy about this - for he is in love with the stable boy, Toby (Jess Cassidy White). Trevor’s solution to the problem is to trade places with his manservant, the very heterosexually hungry Grumbelino (Luke Strandquist). There is also a Princess Lana (Clara Barton Green) who is blinded when she is forced to marry King Soignée of the Blind Sybarites (Keith Patrick Dunn), while pining for her true love, a subject of her father’s court, Geoffrey (Jason Alan Griffen). In and out go the little trials and tribulations, intrigues, and dalliances of the quirky group of characters until all wrongs are set right and the proper mates are finally together in love.
The production is filled with silly humor, sexual jokes, and glittery nudity. There is no big message past a theme of the little guy winning for what is right and just. But since none of the shenanigans can be taken seriously, or even as a parable of our modern day lives, it is all pretty meaningless. The idea is to have a vapid good time, with a little titillation as the cherry on top of a clown sundae, complete with rainbow sprinkles. The success of such an adventure depends on the right venue populated by the right audience and a couple of cocktails. Anyone looking for substance in their theatre going experience won’t find it with Prince Trevor. The play isn’t even truly funny, but there is a kind of ridiculousness that makes it somehow jolly, and the cast seems enthusiastic and devoted enough to the material to make many embarrassing scenes work in their favor.
David Withrow has pulled together a colorful mix of storybook costumes mixing period with modern elements and the effect works well for the piece. Kevin B. Ploth’s lighting was effective although limited by festival restraints. Chris C. Cariker’s fight choreography wouldn’t pass at the Delacorte Theatre, but it makes for some fun swordplay that works within the ballooned world of this production. Original music by Adam Rabin gave the production some elegance, but could have been broadened to enhance even more. Great creativity was shown with Alexandra Finger’s terrific elephant puppet heads adorning a pair of glitter-painted naked bodies moving like Balinese dancers. Clearly, Duncan Pflaster had a blast pulling all of the zaniness together and means to give his audience a good time, but it is only to particular tastes (or lack thereof), that this entertainment will actually appeal.
Copyright 2008 by Michael D. Jackson
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