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.
THE FABULOUS FABLES OF AESOP
What 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.
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 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.
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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