By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Sarah Bennett
By LP Hastings
By Jena Ardell
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
By Joel Beers
Fee, Fi, Fo . . . Oy!
Something smells at the Chance’s The Giant and the Pixie—but it’s not the blood of an Englishman
Every genre of writing has its set of guidelines, whether it’s the set-up/punch line of screwball comedy, the endless spills of slapstick, or the broken-hearted center of tragedies. Fairy tales also have rules, and even if one considers the genre less-than-literary, and therefore more open to interpretation, not just any willy-nilly magical story can make the grade. By definition, fairy tales involve folkloric characters (pixies, giants) and “far-fetched” events. Far-fetched in a fairytale world would be someone swallowing an ocean, for example, which is believable because we’re in fantasyland. But take us out of fantasyland, and far-fetched no longer works, instead turning into WTF? moments.
The Chance Theater’s world premiere of The Giant and the Pixie, written and directed by Jonathan Josephson and billed as a “contemporary fairy tale,” seems to have missed that last point. Trying to elevate a pedestrian love triangle set in a mall clothing shop to some mythological level by colliding the worlds of fantasy and reality is already a tough nut to crack. It’s harder still when you actually leave out the myth: Except for a few out-of-time, sorta-supernatural monologues, there just isn’t any authentic fairytale business at all—nothing magical, nothing fantasyland-ish, nothing even cute. The one thing this bland tale is, however, is far-fetched—a story of longing and manipulation held together by the thinnest of dramatic threads.
Cipriana, a pixie, is a selfish, manipulative young woman who works for her father (a magician) at his men’s-suit store. She’s tired of dating the store manager, Sebastian (a knight), an abusive, insecure control freak, so Cipriana uses her feminine wiles to convince the mall janitor, Arthur (a giant), to attack/kill/scare off (I’m still not sure which it was) Sebastian. There’s also a homeless man (a troll) who randomly pops up, annoying Sebastian and somewhat befriending Arthur.
That’s it. No twists, no turns, no surprises—just muddling through a one-dimensional world as we watch Cipriana flirt with Arthur, Sebastian whine, the father turn a cold shoulder, and the homeless man act nutty and dance like Michael Jackson. In the end, Arthur turns out to be a good giant, just as expected.
And the fairytale stuff? Periodically, a character uninvolved in the present scene emerges to offer some mystical prose or character definition; based on Cipriana’s attitude, for example, we’re told what a pixie is, in an effort to link the modern character with the ancient one she’s supposed to represent. Could be interesting, except that Josephson’s interpretations of these spirits appear to be his own and wildly unrecognizable to anyone who has read any Grimm’s tales. A whiney, insecure, asshole knight? Since when?
None of the definitions were at all familiar, nor did they explain the actions of the people onstage. So if the janitor, et al., aren’t really modern symbols of accepted folklore and their situation is not a modern depiction of an ancient event, why pretend it’s supernatural at all? Worse, the story itself—sans unnecessary fairytale parts—has a heap of problems with character development and motivation (tell me of a single father who wouldn’t fire an employee who was harassing his daughter, and don’t even get me started on Cipriana’s ploy to have Sebastian transferred by blaming a heist of expensive men’s suits on him).
I guess with a title and logline like this play has, I was hoping for a few sparkly bits, or at least a worthwhile mortal story. Anyone have a magic wand?
The Giant and the Pixie at the Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033; www.chancetheater.com. Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Through Dec. 21. $22-$30.