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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Cinderella Waltz’ puts new spin on old tale

Published: November 4, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

“Cinderella Waltz,” staged by the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre (BET) this past weekend, was definitely an event to which I looked forward this parents’ weekend. One of Fall Fest’s sponsored events, this witty play with a cast of only nine actors succeeded in entertaining not only me, but my parents and grandparents as well.

The play, first published in 1978, was written by American playwright Don Nigro. Designed to meld different Cinderella stories together—think Perrault’s clean version and the Grimm brothers’ more brutal one—“Cinderella Waltz” offers Cinderella a choice. In the typical fairytale, the prince is the only option, and why not: Prince Charming is perfectly fine, right?

Yet in “Cinderella Waltz,” an interesting alternative emerges in Zed, the village idiot who turns out to be not so stupid after all. This play gives Cinderella—in this case, a character named Rosey Snow—a chance to choose her own future. The traditional fairytale has Rosey pick the prince but in “Cinderella Waltz” she tosses the shoe that would fit her foot and determine her future down a well. Instead, she makes the startling choice to grow up instead, remaining behind with the village idiot. Indeed, her stepsister Goneril ends up with the handsome prince but this is a choice with which Rosey is content.

“Cinderella Waltz” employs wit effectively, making fun of fairytales while still play-acting one. Rosey constantly asks if she should follow the “typical fairytale motif.” This line itself seems to get at the heart of the play (Should she follow the typical fairytale?) while at the same time mocking typical fairytale endings.

The script also makes fun of idealized characters. For example, at one point, the pure fairy godmother acts like an alcoholic. In a disturbing turn, Rosey’s father proves the opposite of nurturing and betrays some incestuous feelings, telling her, “You’ve got a real nice body; I think about it all the time.” He also cannot ever find his pants, so he is obviously not a strong parental figure. The characters also occasionally seem aware they are in a play, asking, “What the hell is all this stage whispering about?” effectively breaking down the fourth wall.

BET is known for its non-traditional approach to theater, incorporating not only main stage shows but also ones written by students. They welcome unconventional and even controversial shows, a category under which “Cinderella Waltz” definitely falls.

In terms of acting, every single person was well cast. Everyone onstage excelled at physical acting, whether through strong facial expressions or the use of motions to convey feeling.

The best actor by far was Yoni Bronstein ’13, who played Zed, the village idiot. While many other parts in the show were easy to play (for example, the fairy godmother acted drunk while the stepsister acted consistently like an idiot), Zed is a very complex character. At first, he’s very much a physical character, spitting his words out with a violent stutter and scampering around the stage. By the end of the play, he has become more verbal and calm. I personally loved this face he would make while concentrating as the village idiot: a sort of pouting, sad, gruff look. Once Zed teaches Rosey how to dance, he becomes more sophisticated and no longer has his puppy dog appearance.

What also interested me about the acting was the way the characters played off each other. The stepsisters Goneril and Regan, played by Emily Rubin-Falcone ’13 and Hannah Simms ’14 respectively, constantly reacted to each others lines and performance onstage. While Regan is hilariously simplistic, Goneril is a dark Goth, and this contrast allows viewers to see them as more than just the normal static stepsisters.

Another favorite was Daniel Liebman ’12, who played Rosey’s father, Mr. Snow. While his character was pretty basic, he offered many witty lines that helped shape the play. Liebman’s success stemmed from his ability to make Mr. Snow not only funny but also loving. It is clear he is meant to care about Rosey despite his deteriorating mental state.

The stage production crew ran the show very smoothly. Every character was audible and all of the sound effects worked very well (for example, throwing something into the well would result in a splashing sound). Though there was only one set, the actors used it and the props to full advantage, sitting on different parts of the set such as the steps and using varied props from pants to rubber chickens.

Additionally, the lighting cues were always timely. It must also be noted that the show was run very smoothly—intermission was an appropriate 10 minutes and tickets were collected at the door. Professional in every way, the production crew succeeded in making “Cinderella Waltz” an experience unmarred by bad sound or light quality for the viewers.

“Cinderella Waltz” was very justly chosen as a showpiece for parents’ weekend. Well produced and well acted, it indicated to both students and parents the full abilities of Brandeis students.