Book and Lyrics by Sam LaFrage; Directed by Sam LaFrage and Dennis Corsi
Produced by The Spaghetti and Meatball Players
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Children's Theatre
Runs through 8.26.15
VENUE #7: The Theatre at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street
by Shawna Cormier on 8.16.15
The Spaghetti and Meatballs Players in The Commedia Rapunzel.
BOTTOM LINE: Embrace your inner weirdness in this slap-happy merging of Commedia and the fairy tale Rapunzel.
The Commedia Rapunzel, written by Sam LaFrage, is like watching a group of actor friends in a fun and goofy telling the classic fairy tale of Rapunzel. (A little known, but highly important fact: translated from German, Rapunzel means “corn salad.”) From the moment the recorded welcome announcement starts, you know what's in store: absurd, semi-confusing, all-around fun. Bring on the corn salad!
A boisterous group of ragtag people stumbles into the theater. They are here to see a show! Classic audience infiltration ensues. Kids love it and so did the actors. Oh, no! We ARE the actors. LOL! They stumble and bumble and slip onto the stage. They establish themselves as the troupe of performers for the show, revealing who will play what character type.
Commedia is a form of improvised Italian theatre, based on sketches and/or scenarios including (usually) masked roles. In The Commedia Rapunzel, co-directed by LaFrage and Dennis Corsi, the non-servant role of the miserly Pantelone (Andy Dispensa) decides to produce a play. The others, all trickster, semi-dumb servant-types, will be the performers: Arlecchino (Sam LaFrage), Zanni (Joe McGurl), Rosetta (Billie Aken-Tyers), Pulcinella (Conor McGuigan), and Columbina (Natasha Nightingale), the latter proposing they perform Rapunzel. A brief and silly audition, led by none other than Pantelone, casts the show and off we go!
The Baker and his wife are from—surprise—Tennessee! Dumb and full of song, they are expecting a baby. They move from living near a gas station to living next to a witch in Hoboken. They steal the greens; the spell is cast, and baby Rapunzel is stolen away by the witch. Luckily for us, Rapunzel inherited her parent’s “gift” of song. The rest of the tale you've heard before, but this time it’s a bit weirder. There are lots of musical theatre/NYC/pop culture references, random kicks and songs, and a few strange accents. It's all very silly, a bit sloppy, and full of astonishing energy. It seems that it all might unravel at any point, but that's the thrill of it. When the characters disrupt the action to ask the audience for help, they do so with glee.
Amongst the irreverent-ness, comes a note of sincerity. No matter what—no matter how ugly or dumb or strange you feel—just be yourself. Stop judging people! Open you mind! Be weird! The folks behind The Commedia Rapunzel took this note. And, hey, you should too.
(The Commedia Rapunzel plays at VENUE #7: The Theatre at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, through August 26, 2015. Performances are Fri 8/14 at 5; Sun 8/16 at noon; Thu 8/20 at 2; Sat 8/22 at 3:30; and Wed 8/26 at 6:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more show info visit thecommediarapunzel.com.)