Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Into The Woods, Lakeland Civic Theatre

Into The Woods, now at the Lakeland Civic Theatre, has won and been nominated for multiple awards because of the wonderful music by Stephen Sondheim and the intriguing book by James Lapine. After all, who can resist a mash-up of fairytale characters who decide to ditch their traditional stories and head off into a forest. Plus, once it gets going, some intricate ideas are trotted out—including the downside of realizing one’s dreams—by familiar characters such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack (the beanstalk one).

In this production directed by Dr. Martin Friedman, there are specific characters and scenes that definitely earn plaudits. Amiee Collier is a perfect witch, both before and after her transformation, and does a dandy job with her solo “Witch’s Lament.” The two princes, played by Eric Fancher and Daniel Simpson, deliver a solid rendition of “Agony,” although their scenes together aren’t as playful and sharp-edged as they might be.

Some of the other actors have their moments, while others lack sufficient stage presence. But the show is negatively affected by a decidedly slow pace, with dialogue scenes played out with pregnant pauses between many of the lines. Playing beats is necessary, of course, but there are enough extended pauses and beats here for four or five plays. This not only makes the play seem longer and less witty than it is, it’s hard to keep track of the somewhat complicated story.

The clever scenic design by Trad A Burns features tall letters that spell out words and comprise the forest into which all the characters disappear. And thanks to his lighting design, those towering letters often cast interesting and sometimes ominous shadows. But the downside is that the visual palette never changes and, even though the words are moved around frequently, it all basically looks the same and eventually gets a bit tiresome.

Director Friedman has mounted this play before at Lakeland, in 2003, but this time it feels a bit static, and at times almost feels like a concert version of the show. Still, Friedman is continually staging compelling scripts and evocative musicals with talented players, and for that we are truly grateful.

Into The Woods
Through February 28 at Lakeland Civic Theatre, 440-525-7134, Lakeland Community College Campus, just south of Rt. 90 and Rt. 306 in Kirtland.

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