It's an interesting idea: Take a classic fairy tale -- in this case "Little Red Riding Hood" -- have playwrights rethink and revise, and throw up the results as an evening of theater. And The Rage of the Stage Players production of A Little Red turns out, all in all, to be an interesting venture.
The first thing to be said is that four of the five writers -- James Michael Shoberg, Michael McGovern, Joseph Lyons and Alyssa Herron -- have dirty minds. Their retellings, in varying degrees, sexualize the story. That's not necessarily a complaint; as Bruno Bettelheim showed in The Uses of Enchantment, his landmark deconstruction of the Grimm brothers, these stories were born from the darker recesses of the human psyche.
So in Lyons' "dot.carnal," Mr. Wolf is an Internet sexual predator. In Shoberg's "Bed Ryan Hood," Mrs. Wolfe is a schoolteacher sexually molesting her students. Herron's "Granny's House" is set in a bordello where Little Red is to being auctioned to the clientele. And the eponymous heroine of McGovern's "Ruby Red" is a film noir-style hardboiled dame of questionable sexual morality. Only Joseph A. Roots, in "Fall From Glaze," avoids sex entirely; here the story is revamped as a culinary misadventure. (To explain further would be to reveal too much plot.) And the evening begins, appropriately enough, with a straightforward adaptation of the original Grimm story, written by Shoberg.
This opening piece and "Bed Ryan Hood" are multi-character plays while the four others are monologues. My favorite, by far, is Herron's "Granny's House." The speaker, a madam winningly played by Barb Sawatis, is a vivid character filled with funny and insightful detail. Herron's use of language, idiom and lingo is really rather remarkable, and she has a clever way of defining, in a few words, the world of her play and the characters in it.
Lapses in internal logic keep "Fall From Glaze" from really taking off, but Roots' impressive imagination and gleefully wicked sense of humor provide plenty of laughs. This highly entertaining piece benefits greatly from Everett Lowe's knockout performance as a loony and lethal pastry chef.
"Ruby Red" is more character study than play. Early on we know exactly where the writer is headed, but Joanna Lowe's channeling of Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale fleshes out McGovern's character nicely.
Lyons' "dot.carnal" is a one-joke skit which, though amusing, works too hard to be shocking. "Bed Ryan Hood" suffers from hazy acting and an absence of direction, although Shaz Khan does impressive work as the hero's friend.
With its emphasis on the prurient, A Little Red gives a whole new meaning to "bed-time story."
A Little Red continues through Sun., March 10. The Brew House, 2100 Mary St., South Side. 412- 851-0922
- Hungry like the wolf: Dek Ingraham (left) and Chucky Hendershot in A Little Red. Photo by Shawn Davies and James Michael Shoberg