Hänsel und Gretel
The Building Stage reconsiders the Grimm tale but still gets lost.
In December, Building Stage artistic director Blake Montgomery adapted and performed a one-man staging of A Christmas Carol, which he read aloud as Charles Dickens. It was a fully competent if incomplete effort by the gifted performer; after the initial charm waned, so did the show’s sense of purpose.
Turning his adaptation sights to the Grimm fairy tale, Montgomery adds a capable cast, a complete staging and piano underscoring by Matthew Muñiz. But the purpose again is murky. Against a gray, oppressive set—a cinematic nod to German Expressionism—Chelsea Keenan (Gretel), Ian Knox (Father), Pamela Maurer (Hansel) and Jenny Lamb (Stepmother/Witch) play out a heightened, childlike, mostly by-the-numbers “Hansel and Gretel.”
Montgomery reconciles some of the plot differences between the Grimm version and Humperdinck’s opera and folds in occasional contemporary gags (a shout-out to Double Stuf Oreos), but it’s never made clear at whom the production is aimed. Building Stage claims adults, but the fairy tale’s mature themes—a child’s loss of innocence, parental sacrifice, temptation—are explored only superficially. With its talky, silly action, Hänsel und Gretel leaves both kids and adults antsy.