After hearing about it for years, the other night I finally got over to see Axis Theatre Company’s Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid: The Greatest Play Ever, now in its 16th year.
It’s a testament to how terrific the show is that it didn’t suffer in comparison with our experience at Jack in the Beanstalk just a few days earlier. (We promise we aren’t becoming a family theatre blog — it’s just a coincidence that these two fairy tale inspired productions moved onto our workpile this holiday season). Inspired by the Grimm’s Fairy Tale also known as “The Brave Little Tailor”, Randy Sharp’s adaptation invests it with additional American pop cultural resonances and plays a lot with gender roles. The particular combination made me think, “This would make a great movie”.
The actors invest much personality, humor, and character into their various roles (and this is what initially had me thinking “movie”, for it reminded me a lot of my favorite one The Wizard of Oz.) Spencer Aste and Regina Betancourt play a couple of homeless storytellers who owe a lot to Sharps’ love for the Bowery Boys. Jim Sterling is a Pythonesque cockney Ogre. At the opposite end of male gender norm scale, Brian Barnhart is the extreme dandy Scarlet Pimpernell, a welcome and entertaining non sequitur. George Demas is “QK”, the simultaneous Queen and King; Britt Genelin is his spoiled brat daughter Princess Fartina. Emily Kritter is a wicked witch who keeps the winter Goddess “December” (one of my favorite of all actors Edgar Oliver) on a tight leash. Laurie Kilmartin is a monster who has been terrorizing the whole kingdom, who then turns out to be a mere pea. Lynn Mancinelli is the titular “kid” who ties it all together, converting the mean characters into nice ones, and generally saving the day (and all because everyone thought the seven flies the kid swatted were giants). And the one and only Debbie Harry (on video) plays the kid’s mom.
There’s a sweet, magical simplicity to sets and costumes that remind me of old school kid’s tv from back in the 50s and 60s. Surrounded by all the kiddies it made me badly nostalgic for the days when my own kids were young enough for such outings. The show made me so happy it’s more than likely that I will return to see it next year. Above all it’s a wonderful antidote for the horrible times we live, an uplifting and alternative mode of vanquishing the ogres and giants in our lives: transforming them. Maybe it’s a fantasy. On the other hand, sometimes we badly need fantasies.
Information and tickets are here.