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Into the Woods

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   Venice Little Theatre tackles a tough Sondheim show—and scores a win.   By Kay Kipling   When Venice Little Theatre announced that it would present Into the Woods in its smaller Stage II space, not on the mainstage, it was cause for some concern. Could the little black box theater adequately hold an action-packed […]

January 20, 2007


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Venice Little Theatre tackles a tough Sondheim show—and scores a win.
 
By Kay Kipling
 
When Venice Little Theatre announced that it would present Into the Woods in its smaller Stage II space, not on the mainstage, it was cause for some concern. Could the little black box theater adequately hold an action-packed Broadway musical with 20 characters? Within moments of the opening curtain, it was clear that wouldn’t be a problem. Whatever this Into the Woods might have sacrificed in terms of scale it more than makes up for with an intimacy that brings you closer to all of the fairy- tale people in the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine hit.


In the hood: Little Red Riding Hood
(Deniz Hakim) encounters some strange
adventures when she goes Into the Woods.
 
Director Larry Alexander has played a bit with the casting; for example, the narrator here is a young girl (Ally Tufenkjian) rather than an older man, and Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk fame is played by a female (Amber Suleskey). Both of those moves work out just fine, and it’s safe to say that Alexander has also assembled one of the strongest casts in recent local community theater history.
 
For those unfamiliar with Into the Woods, Act I brings us some well-known mythical folks: Cinderella (Dianne Dawson), Little Red Riding Hood (Deniz Hakim), Rapunzel (Kyrra Laurell von Wood), etc. It also adds a new couple, the Baker and his Wife (Rodd Dyer and Kimberly Gardner-Kollar), as well as some twists along the way, especially in Act II, when the results of a giant’s death have unexpected repercussions on everyone. Suddenly they—and we—have to come face to face with realities that fairy tales usually gloss over.
 
It’s really hard to say enough good things about the production. There’s that wonderful cast, especially Suleskey, Hakim, Gardner-Kollar and Eve Caballero as the Witch whose curse sets things in motion. There are the wonderful Sondheim songs, fun, clever and at times very touching. Virtually every moment of the show does what it’s intended to do, and that’s a rare thing in any piece of work. And the costumes by Nicholas Hartman and the minimal but effective scenic design by John Daniele do their job in transporting us to a world of magic.
 
It all makes for an enchanting evening you shouldn’t miss. Into the Woods runs through Feb. 11; call 488-1115 or visit www.venicestage.com for tickets.