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Theater review: 'Into the Woods' at Big Art Labs

November 9, 2010 |  2:00 pm

Woods Talk about a fairy tale: “General Hospital” supercouple Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) were a Harlequin Romance on steroids. Now Geary finds equally fractured enchantment as the Narrator of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods,” currently receiving a fluid, stripped-down staging from Lucid by Proxy.

Come for the play, stay for the rave. “Woods” runs in the sprawling Big Art Labs multi-use complex downtown, and it’s fun to see this gleek classic in an industrial setting.

Dominating the cavernous warehouse, Jeanine A. Nicholas’s massive square stage works as a Grand Central platform for Grimm’s tales to collide: Attempting to break an infertility spell, a baker (David Pevsner) and his wife (Valerie Rachelle) give Jack (Michael Uribes) the magic beans that bring on that beanstalk and deadly giant. Their quest also leads them to sugar punk Little Red Ridinghood (Shannon Nelson) and edgy Cinderella (Jennifer Malenke), heroines too human for mere happily-ever-afters.

Director Calvin Remsberg marshals the show’s shifting moods and traffic patterns with grace, but leaves certain cast members, among them Josie Yount’s Rapunzel, stranded in shrill, one-note characterizations. In a space this size, broad doesn’t play well (a trick Geary always knew about soap opera).

Musical director Richard Berent plays piano and computerized orchestral cues, an effective delivery system given the challenging acoustics. The space eats some of the singing, but droll princes David Nett and Zachary Ford nail the witty “Agony,” and Jessica Pennington’s go-go-booted Witch delivers the goods for the chilling “Last Midnight.” Lucid’s cheerful minimalism does expose the longueurs of Lapine’s book, which overworks theme and character without deepening them. Grimm’s intrepid crew deserves more for their three-hour forest tour.

-- Charlotte Stoudt

“Into the Woods” Big Art Labs, 651 Clover Street, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends Nov. 20. $30. Contact: 800-838-3006 or Running time: 3 hours. 

Photo: David Nett as the Wolf and Shannon Nelson as Little Red Ridinghood in 'Into the Woods' at Big Art Labs. Credit: Tris Beezley.