The Wild Bride is a moody, atmospheric bent fairy tale with a bluegrass tinge that at 70 minutes might have been the right balance of style and archetypal story, but unfortunately at two hours the work runs out of steam and so did I.
Rice has staged the adaptation of the Grimm's fairy tale The Handless Maiden at the Robert Johnson Crossroads. I was not expecting the Cornwall based theater company to use
jug band music and Southern American accents (well the Devil is
American...but the Dad is Irish, the Prince is Scottish). Despite soulful singing and an inventive visual approach, I found the tale for me seemed to drag. The dynamic dance, the somber forest setting, and mournful tunes got lost in the meandering pace of the story and show. By the third character change I was a little tired of the Devil plots against the Woman. And I had lost interest in her and her problems.
Whether daughter, wife or mother, the Wild Bride is at the mercy of the
men in her life, whether welcome partners or interfering Devils. It is meant to
be a feminist retelling of survival, power, and strength. But something about that
nagged at me. She speaks so
little. Much of her story is expressed in dance and then she also expresses herself in song (though sometimes fractured as one performer sings while another dances/acts the role). Having three different women perform her arguably sets her up as an "every woman," or it emphasizes the three different roles she has in life-- daughter, wife, and mother--and the different ages being represented. But for me, her voice was not so much multiplied as divided by this choice. Of course it's a fairy tale and the characters are archetypes but she felt just as unknown at the beginning as she did at the end. And if we are bending fairy tales for today's audiences maybe give the over-victimized woman a voice. I never quite felt the hope Rice suggests is there in the work. But I'm also at a place in my life where "survival" is not enough for me. I want more.
I enjoyed Patrycja Kujawska's performance the most. She gets to let loose as the Wild and her physical exploration of life in the wild without hands is the most exuberant part of the show. Audrey Brisson has a gorgeous voice and the dark tones of her torch-y songs were fantastic.
Just after it was all said and done I felt like the promise and goodwill the work built up with me in the beginning had wasted away by the end.