The PRINCESS Talks, created and directed by Actors Comedy Lab co-founder Nancy Rich and presented Aug. 18-21 at the Cary Arts Center by ACL, in collaboration with the Town of Cary, offers motivational enlightenment. The show is a loose adaptation of a dark edgy British short play entitled The Princess Monologues. Rich’s original script consists of mini-monologues from well-known fairy-tale characters, presented with a motivational insight into their stereotypical lives.
Nancy Rich is very familiar with the inner workings of a Princess’ mind; she is also half of a dynamic duo of the Triangle theatrical community. She and her husband, Rod Rich, will co-direct Raleigh Little Theatre’s Dec. 2-18 production of Cinderella.
Nancy Rich has created an interesting cast of characters for The PRINCESS Talks, keeping some visually true to the stereotypes that we know, while thinking outside of the box on others. The overall message of the evening was women’s empowerment. Love yourself, be who you are (even if it’s not what others want you to be), don’t let a man define you, and embrace your flaws! The show tried to tackle a lot of current hot topics and political issues in a comedic, uplifting way.
Some of the issues include House Bill 2 and discrimination against Transgender men and women. Although these issues are very relevant — at this time, and especially in this state — they are a little too heavy for this setting. For example, Katie Barrett as The Little Mermaid tackled being trans-species, with a heart-wrenching performance better suited to a Shakespearean play, which ended abruptly and put a damper on the fun.
The PRINCESS Talks has a minimal set, consisting of pink stationery “TPT” marquee-style letters. The presentation utilized a few hand props and a chair here or there, and relied heavily on a PowerPoint presentation. Unfortunately, this made the show’s technical difficulties painfully obvious.
Preshow, the audience is treated to the beautiful illustrations of award-winning artist David Trumble. He took the iconic images of various well-known fairy-tale princesses of book, stage, and screen, and transformed them into reimagined contemporary masterpieces. Some of these historical heroines included Hillary Clinton, Rosa Parks, Anne Frank, Harriet Tubman, and Malala Yousafzai.
The premise is similar to TED talks, consisting of (17) monologues, each lasting between 5-8 minutes, for a long run time of two hours. The delivery style of each actor varied greatly, ranging from sweetly introspective to drunken outbursts, to angst personified, to flat dictation, to church sermon at a revival. Some monologues were more successful and engaging than others.
Each monologue assumes that the viewers know the back story of that Princess. To assist with lesser-known story lines, words to songs or other famous quotes are projected on the screen behind the actress.
Unfortunately, the technical difficulties begin early. At the very start of the show, there was a glitch with the PowerPoint presentation that was quickly remedied. It’s hard to tell if the actresses relied on the slides for their monologues, or if they had little faith that the pertinent images would appear during their monologues. This was distracting and took away some of the magical moments.
Some of the actresses were given wireless microphones, while others were burdened with hand-held mics. It was hard to understand some of the actresses, partially due to sound issues and some articulation problems.
The lineup of Princesses included a few odd choices, ranging from a few beloved classic Princesses, Evil Queens with sidekicks, various Fairies, and a few random out-of-place characters. A few of the actresses portrayed multiple characters, but gave the same delivery for each, making the characters hard to distinguish.
Classic heroines include Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, La Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Missing is Snow White, who is pictured on the cover of the program but never mentioned during the show.) There were also a few new Princesses: Xena: Warrior Princess, Princess Leia Organa from the Star Wars movies, and Princess Peach from the Mario Bros. video game were very out of place.
A few of the monologues seemed like fillers, which is unfortunate, because they were the most diverse and misunderstood characters.
There were a few standout performers, including Tony Hefner, who played the only male character and … stole the show. Hefner portrayed multiple characters, including every woman’s frenemy, The Magic Mirror. His humor and comic timing was a welcome relief.
Abby Jordan gave a beautiful, introspective performance as La Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She taught us that it’s okay to be smart and have ideals. Her performance was warm and inviting, making the viewers feel like they were at a slumber party with a good friend.
The ever-talented crowd favorite Tina Morris-Anderson reprised her role of FGM (Fairy Godmother) from RLT‘s annual production of Cinderella. Morris-Anderson was energetic, and commanded the stage, giving the audience interactive tips on how to be a good FGM.
Princess Ugh (also known as Sleeping Beauty) had a nontraditional twist. Bridget Patterson channeled her inner Hipster Teenage Angst, showing us why introverts are awesome!
With a few tweaks and a few fewer monologues, The PRINCESS Talks has the potential for being a really cute show. Grab your girlfriends, a preshow drink, and your tiara (like you really need a specific reason to wear it) and go support your local women friends in this sister production of the current Women’s Theater Festival.
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 17th Cary, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with creator and director Nancy Rich and actors Brenda Lo, Solomon Griffin, and Patsy Clarke, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/inside-mind-princesses#stream/0; and Aug. 4th Cary, NC Cary Citizen preview by Michael Papich: http://carycitizen.com/2016/08/04/cary-comedy-puts-new-spin-on-classic-princesses/.
Actors Comedy Lab and the Town of Cary present THE PRINCESS TALKS at 8 p.m. Aug. 20 and 3 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27511.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 children under 12 and students and seniors 55+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-469-4069 or http://event.etix.com/ticket/v/8087/cary-arts-center.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4__8IhkiFU.
Actors Comedy Lab: http://www.actorscomedylab.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Actors-Comedy-Lab/201926916520429.
VENUE: http://www.townofcary.org/departments/parks__recreation___cultural_resources/facilities/cultural_arts_centers/caryartscenter.htm, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cary-Arts-Center/235735853122351, and http://www.caryplayers.org/cary-arts-center/.
Nancy Gardner Rich (Raleigh, NC creator and director): https://www.facebook.com/nancy.g.rich.3 (Facebook page).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.