Directed by Jennifer Reddish, Script by Kevin Kordis
Review by Kitty M Drexel
(Boston) Grandma’s House is a dramatic re-envisioning of the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” tale. Playwright, Kevin Kordis, brings the relationship between the Wolf and Little Red into the 22nd century as he explores the many definitions of the term “Wolf.” In this cautionary tale about cautionary tales, the cast and crew invite their audience to enjoy the fable of their youth and manipulate them into challenging their understanding of what a wolf is and can be.
Traditionally, The Wolf follows Little Red into the woods, charms her into telling him her plans and swallows her whole after gobbling up Granny. Kordis takes his interpretation to a literal level. Kordis transforms his Wolf into a Charles Manson-esque wildman (played by the alarmingly charming Christopher Cohen) who disarms the innocent Little Red (a sincere Holly Schaff) with sweet words and a forbidden fruit symbol, wild berries. She follows Wolf, referencing the cautionary stories that her mother and grandmother told her, into a meadow and falls asleep in his lap. She knows that the wildman is up to no good; she knows that it cannot end well between them but she is lured by him anyway. He is the bad boy who so many good girls find so damn attractive. While she sleeps, he visits Grandma and her cat (played by the scene stealing Julie Becker).
The play is in 2 acts. The first is an homage to the traditional tale and features the Wolf as our protagonist. The Wolf does not die in Kordis’ play; the wolf is the love interest. Cohen as the Wolf is disturbingly engaging. His Wolf is sympathetic with Red and Grandma but knows the story well enough to know that it must come to its natural conclusion. Cohen is as nasty as he is alluring.
The second act is a continuation of where tradition leaves off. Little Red begins a journey of self discovery, of sexual awakening that is usually only hinted at through analogy. Schaff’s Little Red is alternately sweet and sickeningly naive. Unfortunately, Schaff is conservative with her portrayal of Little Red. There are many points in her performance when she could have chosen to lose control for greater character expression. She is after all being hunted by a literal and allegorical wolf. Schaff instead saves her stamina for the last scene she shares with Wolf. Her reservation causes the 2nd act to diminish. The audience was prepared for the performance to close with the denouement rather than the closing scene.
Grandma’s House is jammed to the breaking point with symbolism, metaphor and allegory. If one is paying too much attention, it will be easy to get lost in the birth, life, death cycle that Kordis weaves into Freud’s Id, Ego and Super-ego theory. Little Red are more than just characters from a fable and their every move is more than just stage direction. It is a psychologically heavy show. But, it can be a fun show for the discerning audience member who chooses to relax and save their analysis for after the applause. Little Red Riding Hood was never just about a little girl who meets a wolf but it doesn’t have to be more than that either.