Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Into the woods and home before dark...

So yesterday it was -30 and extreme cold weather alert (of course that's the day I have an off-site meeting booked! Sheesh). In Costa Rica however, it was +32 and sunny. Have to admit, a 60 degree temperature change is a shock to the system I'm looking forward too :) And by the time we come home this winter stuff should've mellowed a little. Hey, this is my dream -- your reality has no place in it!

Stepping away from my fairy tale for a moment, I went to see Into the Woods the other night and quite enjoyed it. I'm reasonably certain I saw the stage play in junior high, but really remembered nothing of the story.

So, the story. I generally love retellings and creative adaptations of known tales. And this one was creatively convoluted merging of the well known stories of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk, all held together with a new story, that of the baker and his wife who wish to have a child. It also occasionally draws in other characters -- one of the princes references giving up on Sleeping Beauty because there were always dwarves around. It was a lot of fun and particularly well done. While not quite Grimm's version of the fairy tales, it was more gruesome -- and more authentic for it -- than Disney retellings. Despite, ironically, actually being a Disney production.

*Spoiler alert* - If you want to see the moving knowing no plot details, stop reading here. Reread the first paragraph and envision the weather in Costa Rica instead. Trust me, it's worth it.

Okay for those still reading. I loved how the characters were aware of the absurdity of the tale. The narrator was sharp, moderately sarcastic, and well aware of the rules that dominate the genre. The characters themselves also seem to realize at times they're being ridiculous ("You can talk to birds?" Red Riding Hood asks Cinderella, looking at her as though she's lost her mind) and have a script to follow ("I'm in the wrong story!" the baker's wife - who as far as I recall never got a name - exclaims at one point). One of my favourites was "I need that shoe to have a child!" "That doesn't even make sense..." Most of the characters are fairy-tale stereotypes to the extreme and seem to realize it. Cinderella bemoans having to be "nice and good" while her horrid step-sisters seem to thrive. The princes (there are two, brothers of course -- one for Cinderella and one for Rapunzel), in particular epitomize the prince archetype. "I can capture my own damsel, thank you!" They have a great number being as classic as can be. The bad guys play their roles too: the witch is destructive and demanding while the wolf is seriously disturbing with seemingly no redeeming features.

So the characters all run around the forest playing out their stories. Cinderella gets her prince, Rapunzel escapes her tower, Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are rescued from the wolf, Jack cuts down the beanstalk, and the bakers get their child. "And all live happily ever after."

Or maybe not.

What gives this story depth is that it shows what happens after "happily ever after" and the disintegration of the stereotypes. The prince comments that he "was raised to be charming, not sincere," as he cheats on his princess. Red Riding Hood, wearing a cloak made out of the wolf, questions Cinderella's dedication to good and nice as they plot to kill the giant. The baker, until this point the stereotypical happily brainless oaf, learns to think and function for himself. The witch makes the valid point that she is "not good, not nice, just right." And yet, is the collapse of a fiction really tragedy? Rapunzel and her prince seem genuinely happy together while the other characters seem to accept being more well rounded and sort out a new version of happily ever after for themselves. Cinderella sums it up with something along the lines of "my father's house was a nightmare; the palace was a dream; I'd like to live somewhere in between."

Now of course, being as it a salute to the genre, as with all fairy tales, even this one has to have a moral or two. Several in fact, given the multitude of stories included. Lessons presented:
- Children remember what they hear.
- Wishes are meant to come true, not free.
- Straying from the path leads to the best flowers, but also to wolves.
- Blaming each other doesn't accomplish anything -- even if it does make for an entertaining song.
- Stereotypes aren't always accurate: Cinderella can be bad, the dwarf can be good and the witch can be right.

Overall though it was just a fun story. It is a musical -- so if you're not okay with people singing at each other, skip it ;-P But the writing was quite sharp and often humourous and most of the characters did a fabulous job of portraying that they were aware of the ridiculousness of their situations.

Not a bad way to spend a -30 evening. Now, off to get my dress altered. I'd really much rather be going for wings with Steph and Rebecca ;-P hahaha apparently I seriously missed the wedding gene. Or part of it anyways -- some things I love and I'm super excited for it, but this -- which is apparently a Thing -- is nothing more than a chore to me. I'm not convinced I understand the ceremony behind it. Ah well, will be made better by dinner with Mum and Catherine. Off to be a pin cushion.

Seriously, why are they smiling? I'm not convinced this looks like fun...


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