Theater Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (ONEOFUS)

Post image for Theater Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (ONEOFUS)

by Erika Mikkalo on December 3, 2016

in Theater-Chicago

THE BEAST DOESN’T CHANGE WHEN KISSED:
A HAPPY ENDING

Fairy tales may seem ready for ditching into the dustbin of abandoned narrative, taking all their happily ever afters, glittering princesses, and talking animal friends with them. However, ONEOFUS founders Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser, married couple and neo-burlesque artists, offer an alternately cheeky and sincere retelling of Beauty and the Beast rendered fit for a 21st-century audience.

beauty-and-the-beast-photo-by-sin-bozkurt beauty-and-the-beast-photo-by-juliet-shalam

This juxtaposition of their personal romantic history and the story unfolds through shadow play, puppetry, dance, and song. In the process, the traditional sugar-coated introduction to Stockholm syndrome is transfigured to a moving meditation on relationships, the body, and our expectations thereof.

beauty-and-the-beast-photo-by-juliet-shalam

Mr. Fraser’s mother took “perfectly legal, perfectly safe” thalidomide to treat her morning sickness. As a result, he lacks thumbs and his arms are shortened. Introducing himself to the audience as “perfectly deformed,” he plays Beast to Julie Muz’s avowedly feminist beauty. The tale commences in the usual way: the widowed merchant, his three daughters, a rose, a monster, a promise, all presented as silhouettes on an overhead projector of questionable vintage.

beauty-and-the-beast-photo-by-sin-bozkurt

Once the actors take the stage in costume, the old story becomes more personal. Well, not just the story. Everything. Costumes diminish in coverage and the show ultimately closes—or perhaps “consummates” is a more appropriate term—with abundant nudity and simulated sex in a shower of rose petals.

beauty-and-the-beast-photo-by-juliet-shalam

Naughty bits aside, the overall tone is more whimsical than seamy. Philip Eddolls designed a Pre-Raphaelite fever dream of set, all dark wooden arches dripping red roses. Kevin Pollard’s costumes range from Charles Perrault to magical realism.

beauty-and-the-beast-photo-by-sin-bozkurt

Puppeteers Jess Mabel Jones and Jonny Dixon contribute their talents in shadow play, construction of tissue paper animals, and standing in as Mr. Fraser’s “arms” while he’s playing the Beast. This program will make you become comfortable with your discomfort and happy for the fairy-tale moments of new love, moments that belong to all bodies.

beauty-and-the-beast-at-mca-photo-by-sin-bozkurt

mcu-beast-and-arms-copy

photos by Sin Bozkurt, Juliet Shalam

Beauty and the Beast
ONEOFUS
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA)
220 East Chicago Ave.
ends on December 11, 2016
for tickets, call 312.397.4010 or visit MCA

for more info, visit ONEOFUS

Comments on this entry are closed.