The last two shows David I.L. Poole directed were pretty serious dramas. Poole helmed Angels in America with his independent group the Collective Face, and Frankenstein as part of his day job, as a professor of theater at Savannah State University.
So why is his latest project the light–hearted musical Into the Woods at Asbury Memorial Church?
“In my earlier career, I did a lot of folklore,” Poole explains. “So I really love anything that has a metaphysical or folkloric kind of theme to it. And this musical has got a dark side as well as a light, candy–coated side. So it was a good fit for me.”
Stephen Sondheim’s macrame mash–up of a handful of classic fairy tales — Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack & the Beanstalk et cetera —won three Tonys for its original run in the 1980s, and each subsequent revival has added more to the trophy collection.
Every go–round, Into the Woods changes a bit more. The adaptation Poole and company are using incorporates masks and puppets along with the live singer/actors. As a longtime member of the Puppeteers of America, Poole is flexing a muscle he doesn’t often get to use in his dramatic productions.
While directing, he often refers to those flashes of “magic” that elevate a play to some sort of higher level. “Woo–woo moments,” Poole calls them.
“There’s a lot of that going on in here,” Poole says, “with trees growing, beanstalks growing, magic slippers appearing, dresses falling from trees, a witch turning beautiful ... it’s just one magical moment after another.”
The cast includes Asbury stalwarts Ray Ellis and Cheri Hester as the Baker and his Wife, the Collective Face’s Maggie Lee Hart as the Witch, Nick Van Der Looy as Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Zachary Blaylock as the Wolf and Celia Sullivan as Cinderella.
“I’ve been having a blast,” Poole reports. “The cast is huge, of course, but they’re all wonderful.”
Not so far outside the woods is Food For Fish, the dark comedy staged this weekend by the Masquers troupe of Armstrong Atlantic State University.
Loosely (very loosely) based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Adam Szymkowicz’s play was originally produced off–Broadway in 2006.
AASU theater student Hai Dang is directing Food For Fish, which was called “fabulously weird and weirdly fabulous” by the New York Times.
“I’m a fan of absurdist–slash–existential plays,” Dang explains. “But unfortunately the ones I want to do are a little bit wordy. Sometimes it’s hard for the audience to keep up with the pacing. So if you don’t commit to the play itself, you can get a little lost.
“But this one is actually a pretty good one, because it keeps you entertained. It keeps you in the moment. There are parts where it gets a little existential, but it’s still relate–able to an audience.”
The narrator is Bobbie (David Willis), a New York writer who has three sisters named Alice, Sylvia and Barbara (Haley Hudson, Shea Lee and Eric Mims).
That’s right, Barbara is played by a man. Barbara’s husband, Dexter, is played by a woman (Angela Ferreira).
It’s that kind of play.
“There are moments in the play where it’s funny,” says Dang. “There’s equal amounts of drama and humor. It’s not one of those things that, when you leave, you go ‘Oh my God, that was weird and quirky.’ It actually has a very solid story. And that’s what drew me to the play.”
Another major character is the siblings’ father, who happens to be dead. They keep his corpse in the living room. “He actually plays a pivotal role in the play itself,” the director says.
Yep, that kind of play.
Asbury Theatre: Into the Woods
Where: Asbury Memorial Church, 1008 E. Henry St.
When: At 8 p.m. March 2–3, 9–10; at 3 p.m. March 4 and 11
Tickets: $10 general admission
AASU Masquers: Food For Fish
Where: Jenkins Hall Black Box, 11935 Abercorn St.
When: At 7:30 pm. March 1–4
Tickets: $10 general admission