Le Cabaret Grimm

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday April 12, 2010

La Cabaret Grimm plays through April 24 at the Boston Center for the Arts
La Cabaret Grimm plays through April 24 at the Boston Center for the Arts  (Source:www.performancelaboratory.com)

Fairy tales may have a sanitized gloss about them now, but they originated as terrifying tales of mayhem and morbid violence. Insofar as they were meant for kids, they were cautionary tales that left little doubt as to their meaning: the world is a dangerous place, full of dangerous people, and only the virtuous will prevail.

The inaugural production of The Performance Laboratory celebrates the gory roots of fairy tales by pairing up an original (but recognizably fantastical) tale with a punk cabaret sensibility, complete with live music and a burlesque attitude. The result is Le Cabaret Grimm, a simple little story written and directed by Jason Slavick about a nice girl whose kindly father is compelled to send her away to a ferocious, forest-dwelling beast. When the horrible, man-eating creature turns out to be a prince under the spell of a sorceress, the young woman falls in love with him--a love that will compel her to travel through the heavens and across the earth in order to save him from the sorceress' evil designs. The play's twists and turns are narrated by Veronique Blah Blah Blah, who keeps a tight hand on the reigns of the proceedings (as, to be sure, only a dominatrix could).

The play boasts more than a dozen original compositions by Cassandra Marsh, some of them little pop gems. There are also some magnificent masks, courtesy of mask maker Eric Bournstein; trashy / glamorous costumes by Maggi Singleton; virtuoso sound design; and lively choreography by Michelle Chasse.

This is a super-sized production, featuring a pre-show meant to showcase area talents of all stripes, genders, and persuasions. Between April 8-10 the pre-show combined the musical talents of Walter Sickert and the ARmy of BRoken TOys, a motley gang of musicians that combine a fever-dream aesthetic with feverishly rousing songs; the provocative performance art of Madge of Honor; and the stand-up comic poetry of Jojo, The Burlesque Poetess, whose Amelia Bedelia-meets-Lady Gaga fashion sense and skewed patter kept the house in stitches. The pre-show, which is called HUBbub, was hosted by Johnny Blazes, whose costumes (and confidence) grew increasingly big and colorful.

At nearly three hours all told, the pre-show plus the full-length play--both of them a fireworks display of color, wit, and music--make for a full evening's entertainment. The only thing that might make this cabaret experience more complete is to make it into a true cabaret, in the style of some of the shows at Zero Arrow Street: put the audience at tables, rather than in traditional ranks of seats, and get a license to serve wine and beer. Cigarette smoke would also be nice in terms of authenticity--and one of the BRoken TOys could be spotted puffing at a fake cigarette--but give us some red wine and a true cabaret setting, and we'll be out of our minds with joy.

If you like your fairy tales geared toward a late night, adults-only vibe, then this is the place to be.

Le Cabaret Grimm plays through April 24 at the Boston Center for the Arts, located at 539 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

Tickets are available online at www.BostonTheatreScene.com or via phone at 617-933-8600, via fax at 617-421-9674, via TTY at 617-424-0694. Tickets may also be purchased at the box office.

Performance schedule: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.