J.W. Mitchell High's production of 'Sleeping Beauty' takes a dark turn

Rylee Murdoch, left, plays Branwen and Matt Zaneski plays Gryff, her half-man/half-dragon servant, in J.W. Mitchell High School’s production of Sleeping Beauty.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Rylee Murdoch, left, plays Branwen and Matt Zaneski plays Gryff, her half-man/half-dragon servant, in J.W. Mitchell High School’s production of Sleeping Beauty.

The drama students at J.W. Mitchell High School will put a new spin on an old fairy tale when they present Welsh playwright Charles Way's version of Sleeping Beauty on Thursday and Oct. 29 through 31 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge.

"This one gets back to the dark timbre of the original story," said David O'Hara, director and drama teacher at Mitchell.

"There's evil, and playing up life-and-death situations," he said. "You see different obstacles. It's a little bit more serious (than the familiar tale), and it's lots of fun, but the serious parts are really, really serious."

In it, the magical sisters Branwen (Rylee Murdoch) and Modron (Stephanie Jochman) live deep in the woods in a land far, far away. Branwen is the good sister, and Modron is always up to no good.

When a foundling child is discovered, Branwen and her servant, the half-man/half-dragon Gryff (Matt Zaneski), want to give her to the childless King (Shawn Larkin) and Queen (Kaila Boudewyn). Modron wants to keep the child for herself and throws a tantrum when she doesn't get her way, so she is not invited to the christening celebration.

In revenge, she shows up when little Briar Rose (Amanda Lambert) is christened and places a curse on her: At the age of 16, she will pierce her finger on a spinning wheel and die.

The good Branwen cannot undo the curse, so she tries to soften it. Instead of dying, Briar Rose will sleep for 100 years — unless her true love happens along and awakens her with a kiss.

Branwen even supplies a possible rescuer, the rather mediocre Prince Owain (Johnathan Cooke), who may or may not meet the challenges of out-dancing the fairies, outwitting the Spider King (Justin Mages) and out-fighting the evil Modron in order to save Briar Rose.

"This is no Disney-fied romp," People Newspapers in Texas wrote of this script. "It's the real deal. The witch is evil. The princess is angry." Indeed, Briar Rose is described as an independent, headstrong, in-your-face princess.

Adds the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Charles Way doesn't deconstruct the well-known fairy tale … he gives it a few gentle twists and plumbs it for more depth."

Because of the serious themes, O'Hara recommends the play for ages 5 and older.

The professional theater company freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg provided the set, props, costumes and soundtrack from its production of the show last season.

If you go

'Sleeping Beauty'

Where: Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey

When: Thursday and Oct. 30; 2 p.m. Oct. 31

Tickets: $5 in advance, $7 at the door. Call (813) 841-2580.

J.W. Mitchell High's production of 'Sleeping Beauty' takes a dark turn 10/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 4:44pm]

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