Filicidal jealousy, demonic pacts, cannibalism, sex and drugs -- the Grimm Brothers' originally grim Snow White, or Schneewittchen, had it all (if not much in the way of rock 'n' roll). It's certainly a fine feast for a new adaptation by the Rage of the Stage Players and company director James Michael Shoberg. Fairest: The Black Tale of Snow White takes its own liberties with the centuries-old folk tale, unprettified and de-Disneyfied.
Actually, the production is gorgeous (applause for creative director Greg Lightner making the most of the tight stage at Pitt's Studio Theatre), but definitely "adults only." Shoberg's script emphasizes the darker elements, adding some class consciousness and a pinch of incest. Forget subtlety. The Vain Queen (Allison Scarlet Jaye, who is by turns comic, clever and vicious -- and who dominates the stage) is drenched in glorious green: costumes, lighting and sets. Marcus Muzopappa is painted and dressed in white with shades of gray as the Spirit of the King, the ghostly narrator and champion of Goodness.
Most stunning, though, is the Mirror, a combination of human and technical special effects. Evil never looked so good. Skylar Walton and David Wooddell are done up as marble ornaments who come to life with clockwork precision, a prelude to every appearance of the Shade of the Mirror. Actor Rob Henry, already tall and seemingly ROTS' resident monster type, looks even more powerful in a supervillain kind of way, with a respectable scare factor.
Director Shoberg is really punishing, and pushing, his cast. Besides the two guys who are stuck in an uncomfortable position for a couple of hours, and the loads of makeup, the dwarves are scampering about on their knees. It's effective, but it hurts to look.
Jenna Lanz is bravely innocent and comely as Snow White, but being the good girl is not a star turn. She does get to be more dramatic and credible as she gets to turn the tables. Also notable are Harry J. Roth as the unfortunate Huntsman, Thomas Sterner as head dwarf Waldron, and Danielle Jackson Thorn as the ever-faithful servant, Elke.
Sure, the story is predictable, in that we all know what's going to happen, at least eventually. And it's somewhat lightweight -- sheesh, Snow White may be the fairest, but she's also the dimmest in the land. But Fairest is more a pageant, a spectacle, than a mere play.
Fairest: The Black Tale of Snow White continues through Aug. 28. Rage of the Stage Players at Pitt's Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Learning (basement), Oakland. 412-851-0922 or www.myspace.com/rageofthestage