by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

It’s true that sometimes in the most screwed up, unfair and strange ways, fables, fairy tales and myths teach us about good and evil, vice and virtue, right and wrong.  Sometimes, there’s a happy ending. There is no hidden meaning in a fable and it is meant to convey a moral truth. Although, the main characters are usually animals. Fairy tales have a little magic and of course fairies, elves and such. Myths explain why something is the way it is, also teaches a lesson and have a few gods and goddesses thrown in.

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Andy Hirsh and Amy Rapp in the Sacred Fools West Coast premiere of Rose and the Rime. Jessica Sherman photography

As storytelling goes,  Rose and the Rime  currently in production as a West Coast premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre Company Hollywood Row, is mostly fable with a few bits, and as a friend casually pointed out, slightly reminiscent of a Struwwelpter, about the small snowed-in town of Radio Falls, MI, focusing on its youngest inhabitant Rose, who sets off to find a mysterious Rime witch responsible for her parents disappearance and a coin that will release the town from an icy curse.

Like many of these types of stories, we don’t always get the full history, only a placating back story.  And in Rose’s case, only a half-truth which critically sets her on a circular path charging into fate and destiny.

According to Wikipedia Rose and the Rime is a fantasy play written by the House Theatre of Chicago’s creative team Nathan Allen, Chris Mathews, and Jake Minton in 2006, with a fantastical plot and the human themes of greed, power, birth and age.  All of these themes are very clearly and creatively defined by director Jacob Sidney who employs gorgeous and imaginative production design.

The physical elements in this production set a lighthearted tone and are wonderfully expressive of the style and exploration of the piece, “underneath the dialog”, although they are not always fully utilized and also keep the experience of the story from more emotional depth. A superior set design, the use of puppetry, movement sequences (a bit long), animation, music and barefoot actors (mostly to deal with sound issues) to emphasize the winter cold, are incredibly effective.

In a press note we are further offered this explanation: “The Rose and the Rime reminds us that in order to last, happiness must be shared: if we keep if for ourselves, it will disappear.”

Rose journeys through many dangers to the witch’s cave to defeat the enemy, rescue the coin and restore light and warmth back to Radio Ralls for all.  As either an interpretation, a director’s note or else, it leaves open the idea,  “What more is Rose required to give or share?”, which complicates what is a pretty visually and narratively straightforward presentation on the themes.

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Amy Rapp standing before Radio Falls in Sacred Fools West Coast premiere of Rose and the Rime
Jessica Sherman Photography

Rose makes the fatal mistake of using the coin selfishly at a critic moment in her adult life. It’s a decision that humanly is forgivable in her circumstances and given the limited information she has been afforded of the past. But it also perpetuates a disastrous cycle.  So who is really at fault? If Rose had been told the full truth, instead of a fairy tale about her parents, the town, the witch and the coin,  might she have made different choices?

Sidney lightly guides this piece without too many bumps leaving lead actress Amy Rapp (Rose) to immerse herself in the role of the delightfully naive child who before our eyes subtly grows into a young woman whose desire to do the right thing comes into conflict when she is personally affected by tragedy. Notably, Andy Hirsch as Uncle Roger offers up the real gravitas in a singularly moving performance