What is “a premiere production of The Fantastic Tale of Rumpelstiltskin” when everybody knows the story? The Puppet Co. shows how you can breathe new life into even the best-known tales to bring smiles and chuckles all over again.
You can tell you’re in fresh new territory when a sweet narrator bunny rabbit emerges on the scene, admires the glory of the morning, and gets mugged by a fluttering butterfly. Welcome to fractured fairy tales with an edge — this is not your mama’s Rumpelstiltskin.
The contemporary-minded characters written by award-winner Stoph Scheer have an urban-tilted worldview. Nothing will stop them from getting what they want: step out of the way or get rolled over.
The daisy-loving bunny is preciously full of optimism. No matter how many times he gets knocked down, runs into a door, or even gets smashed in the head with a hatchet — yes, the show goes there — he pops back up and keeps trucking, Punch and Judy style.
The rabbit sets the scene for the story to begin with the beautiful daughter of a hardy miller. She has a mind of her own when it comes to making life choices. At least she would if she wasn’t under the King’s command to perform an impossible feat — spin hay into gold, an outrageous lie that her father blurted out that she could do for some insane reason. She’s abducted from her home and thrown into a dungeon, complete with hilarious guardsmen and fun set design with sound effects of multiple locks making sure she stays put.
It’s here where the story gets unusually dark. Warning –the beautiful damsel is threatened with not just the prospect of death if she doesn’t fulfill the task, but actual beheading. Not only is a talking skeleton chained to the wall loosely headed, but the King carries a hatchet jauntily on his morning visits to see if she’s produced the goods — or else.
Once we’re past the shock and awe of murderous, ax-wielding puppets, then we can actually enjoy the antics of the bouncy sprite creature who helps the girl out of her jam. He floats and sputters around and the bags of hay flip over to mounds of shiny gold. The catch in this new retelling is that the creature feels so tricked and frustrated when the damsel says his name, Rumpelstiltskin, that he creates another even more convoluted one that she has to discover in order to save the baby he swiped from her as part of the bargain to help her survive.
The writing is edgy and there are tongue-in-cheek gags and jokes all along the way. Seeing a beautiful brown-toned puppet as the main character was a first for me, and it was refreshing hearing her refuse to marry a man who mistreated her just because he was a King! She held out for as long as she could but the story prevailed and off they went. Still that smack-down resistance would always be there, even in puppet land.
The Puppet Co. describes itself as presenting “A world of endless possibilities on the end of a string,” and the new ensemble delivers in spades. For those of us who adored the work of the early “founders” Allan Stevens and Christopher and Mayfield Piper over the years, we can rest assured that their puppet legacy is in good hands. In a world where technology often trumps imagination and leaves little time for make-believe ideas, it’s good to know that the Puppet Co is alive and well, and still pulling great strings.
Running Time: Approximately 50 minutes with no intermission.
Recommended for ages 4+.
The Fantastic Tale of Rumpelstiltskin plays through May 22, 2022—Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30 am, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 am and 1 pm—at the Puppet Co. Playhouse, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, MD. Tickets ($15) are available online. (No ticket required for under age 2, but please call Box Office to reserve a free ticket.) For information call 301-634-5380 or email Box.Office@thepuppetco.org.
May 1 at 11:30 am will have ASL interpretation.
May 15 at 1 pm will be a Sensory Friendly performance.
COVID Safety: At this time, the Puppet Co. is reevaluating Covid safety policies monthly. Until at least April 30, all patrons over the age of 5 need to show proof of vaccination for admission. All those over the age of 2 are required to mask inside at all times.
The Fantastic Tale of Rumpelstiltskin
Adapted from the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, by Stoph Scheer
Directed by Liz Dapo
Featuring: Kristina Hopkins, Kelcie Kosberg, Danny Pushkin, Brigid Wallace, Katie Rey Bogdan, with special guest appearances by Liz Dapo
Lighting and Sound Designer: Liz Dapo
Master Electrician: Martha Mountain
Sound System Designer: Ien DeNio
Scenic Design: Liz Dapo
Puppet Design: Liz Dapo
Puppet Build: Dre Moore
Costume Design: Autumn Rekus
The threat of beheading is in the Grimm version of the story 😀
Lovely review, Debbie. TPC is indeed in good hands.