By Reina Hardy; Directed by Anaïs Koivisto
Produced by Everyday Inferno Theatre Company
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.28.17
Access Theater, 380 Broadway
by Heather J. Violanti on 10.20.17
Carey Cox and Meghann Garmany in Glassheart. Photo by MDH Photography.
BOTTOM LINE: The tale as old as time gets a contemporary makeover—and some surprising new characters—in this bittersweet adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
Glassheart may have a talking lamp as one of its main characters, but it’s no Disney cartoon. Only (that's the lamp) does things Lumiere or Cogsworth wouldn’t dare. She laughs over beers, cries at the first splinters of a breaking heart, and buys toilet paper. In short, she discovers the joy and pain of being human. In this fairy tale, it turns out the most magical thing of all is learning to navigate everyday life.
Reina Hardy’s update of Beauty and the Beast moves the setting to modern day Chicago. After centuries of dealing with the despairing Beast (Christopher Alexey Diaz), Only (Meghann Garmany), his lamp and last remaining servant, has moved them out of a French castle into an 800-square-foot American apartment. She hopes this will bring them closer to the Beauty destined to break the spell, but things don’t exactly go according to plan.
The first woman they meet is the talkative landlady Mrs. Ruse (Virginia Roncetti), who has a strange fondness for gingerbread and might not be who (or what) she seems. But Aoife (Carey Cox) could be just right—if only she understood what she was supposed to do. But Aoife (she's the Beauty here) wants to work in a bookstore and ride the “L,” not sit around waiting for magic to happen. It takes some intervention from Only to set the fairy tale in motion, but Mrs. Ruse, for reasons of her own, tries hard to stop the happy ending.
Hardy retells the familiar tale with a feminist slant: it's the desire of the women that drives the story. Only lives to serve the Beast, but as the days wear on she begins to crave another life, all while trying to keep her feelings for him at bay. Aoife seeks a new start, but she isn’t sure the Beast is the answer. Mrs. Ruse, meanwhile, nurses a tremendous hunger—but is this a yearning for happiness, or a need to feed on other people’s misery?
Glassheart is a study of opposites, tracing the fine line between the ordinary and extraordinary. In tone and topic, the language is lyrical and conversational. The Beast waxes poetic about despair one minute, while Only describes an infomercial the next. The design also reflects this magical realism. With one key exception, there’s no elaborate costuming by director/costume designer Anaïs Koivisto. Instead, it's heightened street clothes: Only wears a chic brown camisole and pants, with a fringed lampshade fascinator, and the Beast wears an array of smart suits. Mrs. Ruse skulks in layers of black accessorized with glittering scarves, while Aoife wears a blue sundress and denim jacket.
Set designer Caitlynn Barrett uses empty gold picture frames, twinkling Christmas lights, inverted lamps, and brocade pillows to create the Beast’s lair/apartment on a shoestring budget. Despite cheap-sounding recordings, Sam Kaseta’s haunting original music evokes the otherworldly sounds Only overhears from the musicians who live one floor below.
The cast members work well as an ensemble. Meghann Garmany’s determined but doubting Only, and Carey Cox’s kindly but insecure Aoife, are standouts. Overall, the strength of Hardy's writing and the imaginative production elements make Glassheart an excellent choice for those looking to discover exciting new work Off Off Broadway.
(Glassheart plays at the Access Theater, 380 Broadway, through October 28, 2017. The running time is 110 minutes with one intermission. Remaining performances are Tuesday at 4 and 8; and Wednesday through Saturday at 8. Tickets are $5 - $18 ($150 for a VIP package). For tickets and more information, visit everydayinferno.com.)
Glassheart is by Reina Hardy. Directed by Anaïs Koivisto. Choreography and Movement by Allison Beler. Set Design by Caitlynn Barrett. Lighting by Ali Hall. Sound Design and Original Music by Sam Kaseta. Costumes by Anaïs Koivisto. Stage Combat by Jon Meyer. Production Stage Manager is Frances Swanson. Producer is Katherine Sommer. Assistant Director is Peter Charney.
The cast is Carey Cox, Christopher Alexey Diaz, Meghann Garmany, and Virginia Roncetti.