Theatre Review: Facetime Theatre offers inventive Into the Woods
One of the pleasures of reviewing theater is to see the varied ways a play must be tailored to fit the varied performance venues. Facetime’s production of Sondheim’s INTO THE WOODS is a delightful example of talent and resourcefulness creating an entertaining piece of theater. The space in Phoenixville is a large open space almost like a warehouse with pillars. Director Kelly Watana and her staff take advantage of the space and create the woods imagined in Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s musical whirlwind.
Upon entering the theater, the audience is greeted by piles and piles of cardboard boxes piled up and arranged in interesting fashion by set designer Heidi Swartz. It looks random at first, but as the musical progresses one is seduced into the director’s and designer’s vision.
The cast is uniformly excellent from the opening invitation from the narrator (a precocious 5th grader, Alexander Hamel) until the final company bow. The structure of INTO THE WOODS is interesting. Act I involves the intertwining of fairy tale characters as they seek a happy ending to their stories. They are the Baker and his wife (Ryan Starczewski and Lindsay Kulp), Cinderella (Alicia Culleton), her step mother and step sisters (Amy Hudak, Jamie Dougherty, and Cayce Farina), Little Red Riding Hood (Emily Lupinacci), Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack’s mother and Milky White (Andrew Ball, Christine Wincester, and Geoff Desiato), The Witch and Rapunzel (Katrya Oransky-Petyk and Kaitlin McGhee), Two princes (Matt Bartolottta and David Natale) and a Mysterious Man (Tom Pitt. By the end of Act I, all have what they want and intend to live happily ever after.
Act II shows that ever after is complicated and not always happy. The cast excels in the shock, fear, anger, blame and cooperation that is Act II. I am loath to single out performers in a show that is so totally ensemble. It is to their credit that each throws himself and herself into the character and the moment. Kudos to director Watana and music director, Ben Potts for getting the best out of each performer.