Mutti's After Supper Stories
nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
August 18, 2009
Once again the FringeNYC Festival does not disappoint us. Here, among the 201 shows being performed, you can find fresh, independent theatre created with passion, love, and care. Theatre that strives to be engaging, entertaining, and maybe even enlightening. Mutti's After Supper Stories bring to life age old fairy tales that mothers have been telling their children for generations. Maybe not so much these days, with TV and the internet, but here is the opportunity for a happy reminder.
Iris Rose, writer, director, and founder of the Theater of the Grasshopper, has created a refreshing and lyric retelling of such classics as "Hansel and Gretel" and "Little Red Riding Cap" with wit, humor, colorful characters, and lots of music.
Noelle McGrath DePaola, Iris Rose's longtime friend and collaborator, is the very wise Mutti (mother in German), who loves to tell her stories after supper as much as her children love to hear them. Adelaid and Adelbert, Mutti's little ones, are played respectively by Juliet and Collin DePaola, her real-life children. Lily, also a real-life daughter, plays a Moon and a White Bird.
Hugh Hales-Tooke, the only non-family member in the ensemble, is the Woodcutter, and he plays his own compositions in the spirit of the tale, on the fiddle. The players sing his songs and there are moments of stand-out harmonies and solos.
The ensemble romps through the stories, portraying big bad wolves, grandmothers, frogs, witches, and princesses. Some of the incarnations are priceless. They are a theatre family in their element. The antics and vocals of the young DePaolas are not to be missed.
Much of the production's success has to do with all the amazing needlecraft that has gone into the costumes and the set. Iris Rose, remarkable for her many talents, created these textile elements. The backdrop that is the interior wall of Mutti's kitchen/dining room is hand sewn, a large curtain of fabric from the floor to above the actors' heads and then across a good part of the back of the stage. Sewn into this is the illusion of closets, cabinets, drawers, and a window with curtains looking out into the evening sky. The picture is patched together from different fabrics, and trim, buttons, and flaps make it handsome and functional—for stowing and retrieving props or slipping into ovens and out of windows. Ryan Jacobsen's lighting does it all justice.
This is a particularly good show for kids, but equally enjoyable for adults, especially if you appreciate craftsmanship in theatre.