Arts & Entertainment

‘Disenchanted’ Skewers Fairytale Female Stereotypes at Cauldron

IN CREATIVE CAULDRON’S “Disenchanted” (left to right) Snow White (Candice Shedd-Thompson), Cinderella (Molly Rumberger), Hua Mulan (Sally Horton), Sleeping Beauty (Karen Kelleher), Little Mermaid (Amber A. Gibson) amd Princess Who Kissed the Frog (Ashley Nicholas). (Photo: Keith Waters, Kxphotography courtesy Creative Cauldron)

“Disenchanted,” is a hilarious and bawdy romp, but it brings a lot more to the table than just that.

The first production of the Falls Church-based Creative Cauldron’s 11th season opened last weekend and has already rung up an impressive list of praises and kudos from regional theater websites and blogs.

Originally a smash hit Off Broadway a decade ago, this production is the first ever in this region where the locals have a mistaken reputation for being too uptight for such fare.

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Creative Cauldron’s masterful producing director Laura Connors Hull, in the program notes for this one, says the 11th season “begins with a sassy send-up of all those princess stereotypes that have wormed their way into our collective unconscious and dominated our popular culture for decades.”

She adds that while Disney fairytales into box office gold, this play “asks us to really think about the messages contained in those classic tropes, and do they really fit our 21st century, “me-too” awakened world. The answer is decidedly…no way.”

In other words, Dennis T. Giacino’s play is a non-stop assault on all the vestiges of the male chauvinist culture behind the popular notion that all fairyland heroines, even the ones with some sense of a strong identity, ultimately have no wish greater than to find a man with whom to live “happily ever after.”

While the height of the modern feminist movement of the 1970s was characterized by a lot of anger and outrage as women awakened to the depth of their oppression, and while that was revived with the election of a president that is the epitome of the male chauvinist pig to bring out millions onto the streets of the U.S. just after his inauguration in January 2017, this play has chosen a different way to express the same sentiments. That is, through raucous humor.

Directed by Matt Connor and with music direction by Elisa Rosman, this premiere D.C. area production is presented by the Cauldron’s new “Women for Bold New Musical Voices,” a follow-on to its highly-successful “Bold New Musical Voices” program that resulted in some truly creative new productions in the last couple of years.

So, the idea of “Disenchanted” is that the Little Mermaid, Mulan, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and “the Princess Who Kissed the Frog” take turns critiquing the oppression their historical roles have imposed upon them. The songs and staging are lusty and fresh, with titles (you can imagine) such as “Big Tits,” “Secondary Princess,” “All I Wanna Do Is Eat, and “One More Happ’ly Ever After.”

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Amber Gibson (Belle/Little Mermaid/Rapunzel), Sally Horton (Mulan, Pocahontas, Badroulbadour), Karen Keller (Sleeping Beauty), Ashley Nicholas (The Princess Who Kissed the Frog), Molly Rumberger (Cinderella) and Candice Shedd-Thomkpason (Snow White) make up the on-stage cast.

Presented without intermission, the hour and 10 minute how leaves audiences with a lot to think about on the subject of women’s equality and the insidious ways in which our popular culture, even in plays and musicals that seem to elevate women, are in fact reinforcing old paradigms of male domination and women’s oppression.

The show runs through Oct. 27 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. More details and tickets are available at www.creativecauldron.org.

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