Fancy abounds, issues take flight and genders do more than bend in Cinderella: The Real True Story, a modern retelling being presented in Boulder by the all-female Goddess Theatre Company. Written by Cheryl Moch, the two-act play recounts the famous fairy tale with a "same-sex twist." Instead of falling in love with Prince Charming, our young heroine, disguised as a man, falls in love with a young noblewoman who might as well go by the name Princess Spoiled Rotten. After intermission, the story evolves into something of a morality play, as the two are forced to find out whether their love can weather various prejudices that exist on both sides of the castle walls.
This sort of material can easily reinforce negative stereotypes even as it tries to obliterate others, and the first few scenes are, unfortunately, marred by a few poorly aimed potshots at men. An actress who plays one of Cinderella's clueless stepbrothers enters and promptly scratches her crotch. No sooner do we meet the stepfather than, amid crass guffaws, he bellows that women like to be controlled. A grandmotherly character advises Cinderella that when she goes to the party disguised as a man (a ploy that seems a tad disingenuous all by itself), she should not only take charge of her own space, but try to command everyone else's as well. While the generalized male-bashing is obviously meant to underscore the fact that women have received similar literary treatment throughout the ages, it also brings up the enduring truth that two wrongs don't make a right -- not a good beginning for a play that purports to redress injustices and enlighten society.
Once the story gets comfortably under way, however, the editorializing takes a back seat to the overlapping relationships that develop between Cinderella, the Princess, the King and some courtly advisers, the most appealing of which is a phlegmatic duke who appreciates the lovers' dilemma more than anyone initially suspects. And a few heartfelt portrayals keep the two-hour-plus play from sagging to a level of rank amateurism. Actress Evelyn Way is as likable as most any heroine gets. A naturally gifted performer with good movement skills and an expressive voice, she easily wins our hearts from Cinderella's first entrance and does little, if any, wrong thereafter. As the object of her desire, Sally Clodfelter blends slow-witted charm with hot-blooded affection, a combination that lends the play some needed warmth and good humor. And Aron M. Blocher turns in the evening's most complete performance as a cautionary duke and, later, an eagle in disguise.
Cinderella: The Real True Story
Old Main Theater, CU-Boulder
Presented by Goddess Theatre Company
Through May 19, 303-664-9697
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Despite a sluggish pace, some staging problems and the aforementioned male-bashing -- which comes off as oddly anachronistic more than anything else -- director Dylan Yates and a ten-woman ensemble deliver the message that there can be "faith in the magic and magic in the faith."