“The Fabulous Fables of Aesop” and “Infantryman in the Wardrobe” (The Reviews)

By Ernest Kearney — ShoWorks Entertainment has traveled from South Africa to stage two offerings at the Fringe, both written by South African playwright Keith Galloway.  While the works are different in tone and subject, I have combined the two here.


Hollywood Fringe Festival 2017What we know about Aesop is all second hand.  From the Greek historian Herodotus and Aristotle, we know that he was born about 620 BCE and was likely a slave.  His fables, morality tales and cautionary allegories involving animals are nuggets of common sense wrapped in amusing or charming casing and have been entertaining and have instructed readers and audiences for 2500 some years.

In The Fabulous Fables of Aesop, Galloway refashioned Aesop’s fables as children’s theatre, and he did this in 1992.  It is an endearing presentation of nine of Aesop’s most well-known tales including The Ant and the Grasshopper and one of his most fantastical, The Teeth, the Feet and the Stomach.

Co-directed by Darren Portilla and Jo Galloway, the playwright’s daughter, the work is both solidly acted and well-staged.  Four actors, within the framing device of actors preparing for a children’s show, both, “perform” the show and squabble backstage.

Emmanuelle Girard, Christopher Worley, Arturo Lopez and Galloway herself take on the persona of Aesop’s characters and the bickering actors; playing them with skill and panache.  Each one has their moments – Girard as an adventurous baby mouse, Galloway as her worried mother, Worley as a vain wolf.

The best of the show, if we may set aside racial stereotypes from vintage Looney Tunes’ cartoons, was Lopez as a crow with self-esteem issues.  The show had songs and dance, both well-handled by the cast.

The one flaw of the show and it’s a hefty one is found in the quarter of a century that has passed since it was written.  Children have changed, child play has changed, and that child play – IPad, ToyTalk, cell phones, digital delights and 579,987 TV channel mega-media – has changed the whole game.

Silver Medal (via The TVolution)For all its charm, and all the actors’ commitment, The Fabulous Fables of Aesop is a museum piece now.  I watched one child in the audience playing a video game on his smartphone throughout the entire show, except when he was taken up on stage to participate. Upon returning to his seat it was right back to digital dribbling.

Not the production’s fault, the times are just a ‘changing.

For the effort: a SILVER MEDAL.

Infantryman-Wardrobe-Fringe Festival 2017

Infantryman in the Wardrobe is an entirely different offering, and carries much more gravitas.

Here Galloway and Worley are joined by Gretchen Goode, Chris Chapman, Tuesday Grant and Keene to present another form of a cautionary tale, one that takes us through a kaleidoscope of human conflicts spun from the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, old Music Hall song and dance, the writings of Anne Frank, Martin Niemöller, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and even Keith Galloway.

Fringe Award-Gold Medal-The TVolutionThe cast carries the show superbly, creating choral poems and creating heartbreaking tableaus.

Again, the piece feels dated, but this time the subject is gripping enough for that to be overlooked.  I regret that all their effort wasn’t directed at this piece, which could use some updating, and is deserving—more—of the actors’ time and talents.

But as it is, it was an intelligent staging and beautifully acted by all as well as wonderfully choreographed by Galloway herself.  Her father would have been pleased.

This one grabs a GOLD MEDAL.

♦    ♦    ♦

The Fabulous Fables of Aesop and Infantry in the Wardrobe
by playwright Keith Galloway played during
Hollywood Fringe Festival 2017 at
The Complex’s Ruby Theatre

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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