The absolute Joy of Return bubbles from our host, Jay McAdams as he greets the audience for the World Premiere of "Rapuzel Alone" currently at the 24th Street Theatre and soon to move to the Wallis. His welcome is genuine and palpable.
This adaptation of the Rapunzel story that I always attributed to the Brothers Grimm, evidently goes well back in time with consequences and twists and turns that make the story even more fascinating. There are no real witches or fairies or princes in this verson, but that's okay.
I won't discuss Persinette (1698) or La Chatte Blanche (1697), but loved researching these stories to inform the essence of what Mike Kenny has created for Jay and Debbie. Suffice it to say that these fairy tales are fraught with all kinds of pitfalls and danger and magic that's fun to recall.
In his curtain / welcome back speech, Jay elicits applause and gratitude from the matinee audience. A full house. He talks about how the theatre has taken a hit, but the 24th Street Gang has kept the home fires burning and in the mix the idea to develop a story that would inform teen angst and make an interesting presentation about isolation, even before the dampanic struck, now comes to life.
As we enter the lobby of this beautiful neighborhood space: music of the forties is in the air. Pre-show we watch videos of the devastation of WWII. We focus on London. The projection effects that this company employs on three huge scrims with a special super translating the dialogue of the play into Spanish work well. The text translations are because the theatre neighborhood is home to many Hispanic families. The 24th Street welcomes their neighbors with open arms. The neighborhood was in evidence at this matinee.
The stage is basically an open space with an old radio, a table and chairs. Projections and sound effects help create openings and closings of doors and other sounds.
Jay relates that in about 1942 there were six hundred thousand children evacuated from London because of the Blitz. Here on hangs the tale of Lettie, (Tara Alise Cox) whose parents are vital to the war effort. Naturally, they want their daughter out of harm's way. Thus, Lettie is taken to the railway station and with the other children shipped off to the countryside. She has a note pinned to her coat that announces to whomever finds her what her name is and what she likes to eat. On arrival, as luck would have it, Lettie is the last to be collected. And! as luck would have it, her 'benefactor' is a crusty old woman by the name of Miss Pearce (or Pierce, depending on where you look on the program) played smoothly by Marie Françoise Theodore. Ms P. lives alone on a farm where chores start before dawn and the barnyard is under siege from Gertrude, the Goose (a wonderful puppet honked by Matt Curtin).
Puppeteer Matt Curtin, Gertrude the Goose
and Tara Alise Cox
Photo by Cooper Bates
The beauty of a World Premiere is to see what sincere producers reach out for. Regardless of the time lapsed from 2019, the story of a girl estranged from her family and under the thumb of a less than sympathetic tutor has a place. The coincidence of a world on the brink of war is just a sad one.
The plot challenges Lettie to become an independent person, regardless of her lack of book learning (which made me wonder because if her age is discussed, I missed it) and with twists and turns we see her grow. Where in the classic tale, Rapunzel is captive in a tower, our Lettie is only isolated to a safe harbor. As a chore, she is sent to the mail box to post letters to her parents as well as collect the mail. There she meets a cheeky lad, Conrad (William Leon), who dubs Lettie "Rapunzel" because he perceives her being held captive by the 'witch'.
All tolled, the clever use of Gertrude to help Lettie overcome her fears and come to grips with being in charge of her life and her life decisions, works in this full length one act.
Applause to the tech credits of Jeff Gardner, Sound and Matthew G. Hill, video with Keith Michell's set and puppet design.
Co-directors Debbie Devine and Jesus Castaños-Chima may want to tighten the show's pace as the production moves forward. Perhaps some long pauses are for effect but keeping the production rolling seems like a good idea to me.
by Mike Kenny
Rapunzel Alone opens on Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 6 at 3 p.m. at 24th Street Theatre, then moves to the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts on March 12 for eight performances on the following schedule: Saturday, March 12 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 13 at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m.; Thursday, March 17 at 7 p.m.; Friday, March 18 at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets to performances at 24th Street Theatre (except previews) are $24 for adults; $15 for students, seniors and teachers; $10 audiences under 18; and $2.40 for residents of the theater’s surrounding North University Park neighborhood.
Tickets to all performances at The Wallis are $25.
24th Street Theatre
1117 West 24th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007 (at the intersection of 24th and Hoover).
The Wallis is located at 9390 N Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
For reservations and information about performances at both venues, go to www.24thstreet.org.