Cinderella Waltz: A Modern Fairytale

MiMi Yeh

Welcome to the world of fairytales and archetypes; of helpless suffering heroines, handsome princes, hunting parties, and palace balls, also known as Cinderella Waltz, written by Don Nigro and directed by John Conlon. The main character in this story is Rosey Snow (Elizabeth Hanley), mourning her dead mother, ruing the reality of her awful stepmother, Mrs. Snow (Bridget Battell), and her status as the house “cinderslut”.

Her sisters, Goneril (Amanda Kelley), a raging Goth prototype, angry with her parents and her existence, and Regan (Amber Kerner) sweet, dim, and darling to the prince’s messenger, Troll (Brian Ward), neither aggravate nor alleviate the situation. Regan is somewhat more sympathetic while Goneril seems mostly oblivious to her sister’s suffering.

Rosey’s only company is the village idiot Zed (Nathan Barnatt) and her quasi-senile and semi-incestuous father Mr. Snow (Ian Boyd), who finds himself constantly searching for his pants, as he spends half the play wandering around in long underwear.

However, along comes her fairy godmother, Mother McGee (Kelly DiCarli), an 80s style blowsy blond with a New York accent, loud voice, and an endless array of one-liners. Mother McGee hands her a pumpkin, some lizards, white mice, a gift certificate for a pair of glass slippers, a dress, and a magic word “novotny” (“new man” in Russian) to make the spell work.

Yet, Rosey finds herself impeded by her inability to dance. That’s where Zed, comes in. Placing a music box on the ground, Zed manages to coax her into dancing with him to the tinny tune emanating from the tiny machine.

In the end, Rosey drops the shoe down the well, convinced that a life with the Prince (Jorge Fuentes) is not what she would want. Sullen, cynical Goneril ends up enmeshed in the life of the princess with Regan holding up the rear in her coupling with the pointy-eared Troll. Though their happiness is complete, Rosey finds herself filled with regrets once they’re gone. Surprisingly, it’s Zed that she closes the play with, cautiously getting to know each other.

Between following the traditional script for Cinderella and odd asides by characters like Zed and Regan, this take on an old favorite gives an added subtext that one wouldn’t normally think a simple story such as that could contain.

Mrs. Snow doesn’t just behave like a cruel stepmother. She also comes across as a middle-aged woman who fails to acknowledge that her youth has passed and she’s married. Her insistence on attending the ball and taking Rosey’s ticket as being intended for her are humorous and pathetic.

Rosey has her own fantasies about how wonderful her mother was when she was too young to remember her. She believes that a life of wealth and leisure will lead her to happiness. This play is a story of breaking down misconceptions.

Zed prefers to act the fool, live in the woods, speak incoherently, and drool nonstop when, in reality, he’s smarter, more aware of the fault lines in the realities of those around them, yet he prefers to be safe in his fantasy as a fool. It’s a play about appearances and false fronts that are obvious to everyone, the audience, even other characters, yet not themselves.

The setup was simple and intimate, with actors sometimes not more than two feet from any particular audience member. The scenery was effective, with most of the action taking place in the front yard of the Snow residence. We never see the ball or any of the coaches. We are left to imagine the magical evening that must have occurred aside from the artful choreography of two dream dancers: Kristen Wytas-Zaik and Michael Bailey to add to the unreality of the situation. To demonstrate a change in thought or mood, the stage was strewn with light in soft purples, lavenders, and blues.

In spite of this well-done script, the timing seemed to be a little off for the cast that night. Hanley couldn’t seem to remember certain lines and appeared nervous, stuttering at the beginning of long asides. Fuentes, as the Prince, put on a high-speed accent that, at times, was English, and at others, incomprehensible. Barnatt made a wonderful idiot but, during the moments where he was supposed to hint at the genius beneath the façade, he seemed to have difficulty slipping back behind the mask of the fool. There was one moment there where Hanley was left sitting for several minutes, leaving the audience wondering whether this was part of the play or not; it was the latter as Barnatt made a belated entrance onto the scene to comfort a dejected Rosey.

Not to be forgotten was DiCarli’s hilarious performance as the epitome of the glamour and glitz of the 1980’s, perfect timing, and delivery every one-liner she was given. Kelley and Kerner worked well as the squabbling siblings, especially with Kelley’s dramatic expression of depression as Goneril. Boyd’s lecherous old man helped to lighten scenes that may have dragged for some audience viewers.

Overall, an interesting take on an old favorite that, largely, is entertaining in spite of its flaws. B.

Cinderella Waltz will be running on October 24, 25, and 26 at 8pm in McCormack Theatre. Tickets are $10.