A problem with so many adaptations of children stories – many of these tales are popular with young kids because they are short and simple, and therefore perfect for reading just before bedtime. So how do you stretch the story out for a full 40 minute show?
It is not easy, and some solutions work better than others. The Puppet Co down at Glen Echo faced that problem with their current show based on the childhood favorite about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Their solution was a bold one – tale the overly familiar tale with its rather two dimensional characters and completely re-imagine the story.
Consider this “CSI: Goldilocks”
After a comical introduction of our actors – Christopher Piper and Cate Krage, plus a cute little song about Seeing Two Sides to Every Story – we get into the heart of the matter. In a courtroom style staging with black gowns and witness stands right out of an Agatha Christie courtroom drama, we the jury in the audience get to decide if Goldilocks broke the law.
After all, did she break into that house and destroy property? It’s actually a rather serious crime that is not explored in the original tale. But then, I do not recall the characters acting quite the way they do down at the Puppet Co. The Three Bears become a typically dysfunctional family, with overly rambunctious kid and a father whose one day off from work is definitely not going well. Then there’s Goldilocks, who emerges here less as a Heidi style heroine and more as a Valley Girl, complete with accent, slang, and attitude. This is not your mother’s Three Bears story.
Piper and Krage work well together, performing their introductory mock arguments with gusto. When we slide into the story proper, it is Krage for the prosecution of Goldilocks and Piper for the defense, each doing a grandly broad imitation of all those lawyers we’ve seen ever since Perry Mason was on TV. When one is out front as the lawyer, the other quickly reappears in either half full body puppet suit or with a typical rod puppet. And before you know it, both are working puppets.
It is an amazing quick change act, with actors quickly going between rod puppets to complicated puppet suits for the Bears and then as human actors. At times to actors switch between multiple voices to give the effect of more than two people on stage. Occasionally when character are behind the scenes or there are multiple voices and music going on, it can be a little difficult to hear clearly what is being said, but overall this quick changing between roles goes off seamlessly.
Another neat trick is Allan Steven’s set design. With a few flip up pieces and scrolling panels, we quickly go from that stuffy courtroom to the bear’s home to a brief stint in the outside world. The Puppet Co even uses projection on the back panel at one point to suggest the creepy woods.
This is not the most faithful or even insightful of fairy tale adaptations, but neither is it intended to be. It’s a lark, a bit of summer time fun with a well-known story, and it is quite ingenious how the Puppet Co pulls it off. A few jokes are aimed at the parents (“Cub’s win!”), but with very few totally new additions, most of this show is a clever twist for anyone who knows the original story.
“Goldilocks” continues at the Puppet Co. at Glen Echo through July 15. For ore information, call (301) 634-5380 or go to their website at http://www.thepuppetco.org/