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Review: “Glassheart”

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Fairy tale endings don’t have much of a place anymore – we are, perhaps, too jaded, too busy, too practical. Yet there’s a lot of comfort built into any re-visitation of a classic story, especially if the new version has imbedded a cynical edge.

UT Michener Center playwright Reina Hardy has done just that with her play, “Glassheart,” showing through Sept 14 at Salvage Vanguard Theater.

Hardy’s script envisions a modern-day extension of “Beauty and the Beast” in which Beauty never showed up at the door, and the Beast has been forced to sell off his estate and downgrade to a crumby walk-up apartment with just one remaining (and profoundly loyal) servant to keep him company. Faced with an unfamiliar world and devoid of hope, The Beast despairs of the long trudge into which his story has devolved.

Billed as a romantic comedy, the show offers a lot to like but doesn’t live up to its own potential.

In part, this is the result of unclear conventions in the world of this play: entrances and exits are inconsistent, we can’t figure out if and when the characters are speaking to the audience or just themselves, and we get a voice over interjection at the end that confuses more than it clarifies.

In addition, director Kyle Zamcheck’s choice to have The Beast (Michael Miller) and The Witch (Lana Dieterich) exaggerate their roles feels too heavy-handed and over the top. It also does a tremendous disservice to the talented Miller, and the growly, suicidal ranting must be hell on his vocal chords.

Nevertheless, Carolyn Kramer (“Only” the lamp) is absolutely endearing as the unshakably dependable servant. And the show does build to an extremely touching moment between the lamp and her master.

In her role as the neurotic update of a fairy tale heroine (Aiofe), Shannon Grounds brings a lot of energy into the show – which invigorates an otherwise slow-moving first act.

Hardy’s script sounds like it would read very well – with a lot of witticisms and nicely crafted monologues. Yet, in this premiere performance, it proves difficult to follow and frequently loses momentum, making the two and a half hour show feel even longer. And though we may perk up in places (such as a rousing candy-tossing scene in the second act), the show proves to be more of a trudge than a promenade.

“Glassheart” continues through Sept. 14. See www.shrewdproductions.com