Review of Red Riding Hood: A New Fable
at Olney Theatre
April 2, 2012
by Kathleen Seiler Neary
Olney Theatre Center
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd.
Olney MD 20832
How does one outsmart a wolf with no woodsman around? Millie (Dorea Schmidt) isn't about to be fooled by this hungry wolf, played by Jared Mason Murray in Olney Theatre Center Institute's production of Red Riding Hood: A New Fable.
Photo by Kristen Campbell
Despite its brief run, Red Riding Hood has a very polished and professional feel to it. With only three actors playing the various roles, the hour-long, no-intermission play is well-paced and easy to follow. The main character, Mildred (Millie), speaks to the audience as if they are her friends, which really helped to draw my six-year-old son into the story. At various points in the show, the actors pose questions to the audience or invite participation.
Red Riding Hood opens with Millie spewing facts from an Atlas and confiding, "I love learning about new things." On her first day of school, she is assigned a presentation on Little Red Riding Hood. She researches the story, and when she wakes up the next morning, she is Red Riding Hood. Millie alternates between the reality of going to school with the fantasy of going to her grandmother's house. In her imagination, she meets the Big Bad Wolf. She arrives at her grandmother's to find that the wolf has locked her grandmother up and now wants to eat her. She challenges him to a trivia contest, outwits him, and gains her freedom. Back in reality, Millie gives her class presentation, recounting all that happened in her imagination, and receives an A+.
Millie's nerdy-ness is played up to the point that it reminded me something out of a Saturday Night Live skit (for example, when her friend gives her a new book, she smells the inside of it). But there is a lot for kids to relate to in her character. She's super nervous for school to start, but comforted that she has a friend to accompany her. She's hurt when that friend calls her a "know-it-all scaredy cat," but very excited when she makes a new friend. She is extremely book smart, but also has a vivid imagination.
The set is simple but it works, with a bed for Millie and piles of books strewn about. The barn-ish theater, with wooden beams and paneling, is most often used for adult theater. The fold-down seats can be creaky, which is especially noticeable when little ones aren't sitting perfectly still (read: the whole show). One child even managed to get his leg stuck in a seat during the show we went to and another audience member came to the rescue (the child was totally fine).
Olney Theatre recommends this show for ages 3 and older, but I would up that to 4 or 5. Three year olds just won't be likely to grasp the concept of school assignments and might find the alternating of reality/fantasy confusing. There isn't much scary here as the wolf doesn't act overly threatening. There is a brief time where you wonder if the wolf ate the grandmother but you soon learn he didn't. Much of the play is upbeat and there were plenty of giggles from the audience.
When we left the play, my son and I chatted about what he might come up with for the assignment Millie had. He'd clearly been inspired by Millie's imagination as he rattled off his own update on Little Red Riding Hood.
Red Riding Hood: A New Fable runs through April 7, 2012. Tickets are $10. The show is recommended for ages 3 and older. Packaged snacks are sold in the lobby before and after the show.
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