The “Little Red Riding Hood” story provides rich fodder for the imagination, from overt themes of danger and violence to implicit evocations of sexuality and seduction. So it’s perhaps not surprising that Transatlantic Love Affair takes on this story in “Red Resurrected,” hard on the heels of their successful retelling of the legend of the selkie, “The Ballad of the Pale Fisherman.”
Like “Ballad,” “Red Resurrected” was first staged at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and then reworked and expanded for Illusion Theater’s Lights Up! series. Its Appalachian setting is created with this troupe’s signature style, in which the actors’ bodies and voices build a magically aural and visual landscape.
In a retelling written by Isabel Nelson, Little Red Riding Hood becomes Red, an orphan being raised communally by a handful of families in the tiny village of Primrose. Anna Reichert serves as narrator, introducing the audience to this isolated world in which Red, played with winsome grace by Adelin Phelps, first appears as a child. She’s parented by an assortment of adults, including kindly old Mr. Oak (Diogo Lopes), the stern and acerbic Mrs. Quinn (played by Heather Bunch) and Mr. and Mrs. Cooper (Derek Lee Miller and Allison Witham).
Despite the many warnings she receives about its dangers, Red is drawn to the forest that surrounds the village. As the years pass, she penetrates its depths, discovering the secret abode of a crone, played with laconic understatement by Reichert. The knowledge the woman imparts allows Red to envision a future beyond the narrow confines of her village.
Under Nelson’s crisp direction the ensemble creates a beautifully realized world through movement, pantomime and sound. The actors become the set, the props and the sound design, conjuring a forest full of movement, a kitchen complete with dripping faucet, a crackling fire and a woodland cottage, using just their bodies and voices. Counterpointed by traditional Appalachian shape-note music and Michael Wangen’s lovely lighting design, the play becomes an endlessly fascinating exercise of ingenuity on the part of this skilled group.
The script doesn’t completely rise to the complex grace of the production. The symbolism embodied in the crone, the wolves, the forest itself is foreshadowed so heavily and so relentlessly from the opening moments of the play that by the time all is revealed, the long-anticipated answers to the town’s secrets seem almost anticlimactic, and the clever play’s emotional heft is muted.
Lisa Brock writes about theater.