Fun holiday comedic ‘Cinderella’ 

Nothing will put you in the holiday spirit more quickly than the African-American Shakespeare Co.’s seasonal show, a low-tech and engaging “Cinderella.” I caught a Sunday matinee among an audience of squirming, giggling girls in shiny party dresses, many in sparkly tiaras too.

The theater’s Afrocentric script — tweaked by whoever is directing it in a given year — is a delight.

This year, San Francisco Mime Troupe veteran Velina Brown is at the helm, so there is a splash of the troupe’s commedia dell’arte-style physicality, well executed by an adept cast that includes a few kids, but with adults playing the principals and some smaller roles to good effect.

It also features a pair of suitably screechy stepsisters who — in a departure from the company’s recent tradition of casting males in those roles — are women (Leslie Ivy and Beverly McGriff) and attractive, as is a particularly sexy evil stepmother (an icy and sashaying Natasha Noel).

Brown aims to send a sort of beauty-is-as-beauty-does message to little girls, and she mines plenty of comic gold along the way.

The company’s rendition begins with a slightly awkward framing device in which a grandmother (a warm portrayal by Belinda “Beli” Sullivan) relates the familiar fairy tale to calm her grandchildren, a pair of squabbling sisters. (The device does pay off with a nice little twist at the end, though.)

The play then settles into a buoyant rhythm.

A charmingly down-to-earth Cinderella (Khamara Pettus, barefoot with a broom and a vertical Afro) is visited by a zany fairy godmother (Melvina Hayes, hilarious in sunglasses, black leggings and a filmy little cape), who assures her amazed goddaughter that when she goes to the ball — and she will go to the ball, in a glittery white gown (costumes by Kristen Lowe) and coach (set design by Joel Eis) — the prince will recognize her inner beauty.

Particularly nicely staged are the scenes at the masked ball itself, with beautifully choreographed dancing.

A tall and graceful Prince Charming (Matt Jones) tests out a variety of potential princess brides in scenes reminiscent of Petruchio putting Kate through her paces in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

In an especially inspired bit, Jones performs a variety of bizarre dance moves (think Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks) to challenge the sincerity of his rapacious guests.

A scene between the Prince and Cinderella — who initially thinks he’s a footman — is played with quiet simplicity.

At the end, in a nice touch, Cinderella finds her true voice — and her self-worth.


THEATER REVIEW

Cinderella


Presented by the African-American Shakespeare Co.

Where: African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco

When:
8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10 to $30

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.african-americanshakes.org

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Bio:
Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of...

More by Jean Schiffman

Latest in Theater

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Comments are closed.

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014

Videos

Related to Theater

© 2014 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation