THEATER REVIEW | The Moving Company’s “Out of the Pan Into the Fire” is a fairy tale treat

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“As every child knows, a fairytale is like giving candy to your imagination.”  – program notes

Out of the Pan Into the Fire, a new fairy tale directed by Dominique Serrand, which opened at the Southern Theater on Friday May 4 and plays until May 26, is a candy shop full of every individual’s favorite treats.

The show is born with a bang: a crashing noise like the slamming of a book, followed by the slow lighting of an antiquated filament light bulb, which then rises from a pile of sand like the sun (but it’s actually just on a wire). Steve Epp’s character Angelo is born out of (and occasionally disappears into) his big woolly-looking overcoat. He finds a book and reads to us: “It was in the days when wishing was still of some use… “ Angelo describes his main characters, including himself and his so-called children, Thirteen and Elsie, who both, on different occasions, fell from the sky into the garbage. The rest of the story blends elements, tropes, objects from fairy tales with wishes, fear, a touch of magic (but not too much), and knowledge that follows from experience.

Angelo is an old and very, very poor man, who is sort of an angel for saving two babies from the garbage—well, actually 13 kids all together, if you believe him. The last boy, dubbed Thirteen after Angelo ran out of Jack names, is endearingly vapid, humoriously portrayed by Nathan Keepers. His brilliant sort-of sister Elsie is a bespectacled Christina Baldwin, who spews knowledge but lacks “experisosthe”—experience, a word she cannot say and which just gets stuck in her mouth on the way out.

Along the way, the “children” are abandoned (Angelo leaves them so they can grow up), tortured (an evil witch, a stomped small midget Stumpfmutter gets abusive), and visited by a randy Prince Roland (who Elsie unceremoniously and efficiently removes); the last two characters are played both grotesquely and charmingly by Sam Kruger. As in a fairy tale, all the elements together are grotesque, charming, and serve up a lesson via philosophical food for thought about fear, dread, reverence, knowledge, and wisdom. In the end the show delivers more than just a moral, from a time when “wishing was useful.”

The Moving Company is a reincarnation of the shuttered Theatre de la Jeune Lune (1978-2008). Since the 2009 founding of this company, Dominique Serrand and his collective, including the three actors named above, have created pieces locally after developing them in workshops on college campuses. This one was produced at the University of Iowa in February. In this interview, Dominique Serrand describes the process.

Also read Matthew Everett’s review of the Moving Company’s Come Hell and High Water (2011) and Jay Gabler’s review of the the company’s Werther and Lotte (2012).


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