|Elizabeth Rimar and Becca A. Lewis in Monster Tales.|
Pity poor Mimi, the lonely librarian, who only has her teddy bear to snuggle with at night. Well, at least said teddy (dubbed "Pookie") does double duty as lover and sentinel: before dropping off to sleep, Mimi has him peek under the bed, just to make sure there aren't any Monsters down there!
But guess what - there are! Aren't you surprised?
Well, I wasn't, but I still largely enjoyed Mary Jett Parsley’s The Monster Tales, which plays through the weekend at the Factory Theatre in a quietly intelligent production from Mill 6 Collaborative. This young playwright's tale hardly breaks any new artistic ground - it basically revisits, for Generation Y, familiar tropes regarding the psychological resonance of fairy tales. It turns out that Mimi's Monster (Becca A. Lewis) only wants to regale her host (Elizabeth Rimar, both above) with the stories Mimi has been whispering in her sleep. And guess what - those stories tend to reflect Mimi's own psychological conflicts. (Who would have thunk!?)
Ok, enough of the Snark Monster. Parsley does spin some intriguing millennial variations on her folk-tale template, most of which announce their themes none too subtly, but also not too loudly - pretty much as genuine folk tales do. There's a blind man who orders his wife from a catalogue; a girl who finds a real live boy growing in her garden; a mother whose death proves mortal to her daughter; and a man who must hide his mysterious talents - the themes of these vignettes don't exactly mystify, but they do resonate appropriately. Alas, Parsley's tales never quite tap into the springs of cruelty and fear that feed real fairy tales, so we do wonder what, precisely, Mimi has been so very afraid of; she doesn't seem to so much overcome anything as just wait it out.
Still, we're distracted from that lack of arc by nicely detailed acting in most of the roles. In an innovative arrangement, Mill 6's Monster Tales is "sharing" the Factory Theatre with Whistler in the Dark's Aunt Dan and Lemon, and between the two productions you could probably account for most of the better actors on Boston's fringe. Elizabeth Rimar carries on the strong work she did in The Europeans with a completely believable turn as Mimi, and Becca A. Lewis proved whimsically feral as her designated Monster. Meanwhile, in the tales themselves, the reliable Sasha Castroverde and Irene Daly were the clear stand-outs, although Nathaniel Gundy and Lonnie McAdoo both had their moments. The most pleasing surprise of the evening, however, was its original score - a set of sweetly melancholic pop baubles by Sarah Rabdau and the Self Employed Assassins and Peter Moore of Count Zero. (Yes, those are really their names.) The thoughtful direction was a joint effort by Barlow Adamson and John Edward O’Brien. You only have till Saturday to catch the remaining performances.