Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Review – Princess Mimi Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Frog (a play for someone else’s children) (The Hamburger Theatre Company and th

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

With a title that references Dr. Stranglove, I think I can be forgiven for expecting a play that would take the story of The Frog Prince, best known by way of the Brothers Grimm, and turn it completely inside out. Instead, Princess Mimi Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Frog (a play for someone else’s children) is a remarkably conventional retelling of the story.

Princess Mimi (Sarah Todes) is spoiled. Her father (Miriam Mintz) and grandmother (Steven Olender) aren’t willing to do much about her behavior, so Mimi’s only friend is her golden iPod, Poddy. When Mimi drops Poddy down a well, she is so distraught that she makes a deal with a Frog (John Kurzynowski) –she’ll let him live in the palace if he gets her iPod back. He does. She reneges. Her father lets the frog move in anyway, but only until a new iPod arrives (poor Poddy got all wet and no longer worked). After some initial awkwardness, they become friends. The iPod arrives, the frog leaves, Mimi realizes that a slimy green friend who actually listens is better than an iPod any day. A kiss. A prince. Happily ever after.

Playwright Patrick Flynn has created an amusing piece of children’s theatre. There’s enough pop culture, slapstick, and silliness to keep a gaggle of kids entertained. And thanks to the antics of the Narrators (played in this production by Marty Glyer and Michael Lister) there’s some funny stuff for parents as well. But I’m not convinced that The Hamburger Theatre Company trusts the material. Director Zachary Stewart seems more interested in using tricks - gender-bending casting of the King and Queen Mum, stylized movement, self-referential theatrical jokes – to make the production seem geared more toward adults. While it is an interesting choice, I’m not sure it was the best one in this case. In addition the play feels rushed. As it is, it runs considerably shorter than the promised hour and fifteen minutes. Stewart could easily afford to take things at a slightly less frantic pace.

The actors in Princess Mimi seem to be having a good time and there are some rather good performances. Chief among these are Marty Glyer and Michael Lister as the Narrators and John Kurzynowski as the Frog. Kurzynowski was without a doubt the most expressive amphibian I’ve seen since Kermit the Frog. Sarah Todes did an excellent job as the spoiled Princess. Both Mintz and Olender did well with their roles, though the Queen Mum and King are really there to serve as a foil for Mimi, so they didn’t often get a chance to shine.

The production values are very good for a Fringe show. Andrew Scoville’s scenic design and Caitlyn Larson’s lighting manage to rein in the cavernous stage at the Connelly Theater. Laura Helmer’s costume design is fun and inspired.

Ultimately, this production of Princess Mimi is a lot like the dry macaroni and glitter art you made in elementary school. You and your friends loved making it. Your parents thought it was the best thing ever. But for those who weren’t involved, it’s just hard to get too worked up about it.

Written by Patrick Flynn
Directed by Zachary Stewart
Scenic Design: Andrew Scoville
Costume Design: Laura Helmer
Lighting Design: Caitlyn Larson
Sound Design: Robert Ribar
Co-Scenic Design: Harry John Shepard
Props Design: Adele Rylands
Production Stage Manager: Paul Bedard

Featuring Marty Glyer (Narrator 1), Michael Lister (Narrator 2), Miriam Mintz (King Timothy the Tolerable), Steven Olender (The Queen Mum), Sarah Todes (Princess Mimi), John Kurzynowski (The Frog)

The Connelly Theater
220 East 4th Street

Closed: Sunday August 26th