"Grimm Fest" (First Floor Theater): Chicago Goes Grimm!

"Grimm Fest" (First Floor Theater): Chicago Goes Grimm!

First Floor Theater presents GRIMM FEST

A couple of years ago, I was intrigued that not one but two television shows were dedicated to fairy tales.  “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” weren’t targeted to kids.  They were adult dramas anchored in childhood stories.  I watched both for awhile impressed by the complete opposite approaches to ageless folktales.  Although I ceased watching “Once,” I still enjoy “Grimm”-ing it.

So obviously, the Grimm Fest caught my attention. Eight local playwrights wrote short plays based on the Brothers Grimm’s stories.  It’s an eclectic feast of the classics placed in a smorgasbord of settings.  Greg Allen kicks off the festival with “A Thief and His Master.”  Under the playful direction of James D. Palmer, Jamie Burns and Will Von Vogt are a hoot.  Burns and Von Vogt are almost vaudevillian as they spin into a different character with faux stiltedness.

Each of the seven shows I saw (the eighth show is only performed on Saturdays) were completely different styles.  Calamity West went western.  Bonnie Metzgar chose horror.  And Sid Branca’s turns the “Rumpelstiltskin” guess-my-name gamble into a contemporary hook-up at a bar.  “Better” is clever with a surprisingly poignant ending.

In the second half of the show, Emmett Rensin does a tribute to the actual Brothers Grimm.  Director Gus Menary skillfully shows the relational closeness between Jacob and Wilhelm (played by Travis Coe and Blake Russell).  Coe and Russell deliver the edgy despair and imaginative anxiety that would give birth to the Grimm’s make-believe legacy. And because I love my fairytales with a happy ending I especially appreciated the Grimm Fest serving up a double dose.

First, Philip Dawkins penned a multiple personality disorder and inflicted Matthew Sherbach with it.  Director Devon de Mayo paces it as a tight frenzy frolic.  The animated Sherbach is hysterical.  Next, Seth Bockley wrote “Hansel and Gretel:  A Cautionary Confection.”  Bockley makes it sweet, silly, and a sensational spectacle. It’s a puppet-opera-like-comedy-sketch. Under the direction of Will Bishop and music of Jeff Thomas,  Eden Blattner, Scott Merchant and Brandon Moorehead sing it, zing it, and wing it.  It was a fun finish to an evening of amusement.

GRIMM FEST could be an annual showcase.  The Brothers Grimm have given us a timeless starter kit.  And Chicago theatre community has an active imagination.  The GRIMM FEST possibilities are limitless.

Running Time:  Two hours includes an intermission

At the Charnel House, 3421 W. Fullerton

Written by Greg Allen, Seth Bockley, Sid Branca, Philip Dawkins, Bonnie Metzgar, Emmett Rensin, Mitch Salm, Calamity West

Directed by Will Bishop, Devon de Mayo, Gus Menary, James D. Palmer, Hutch Pimentel

Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm

Thru June 1st

Buy Tickets at www.firstfloortheater.com

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