Hansel and Gretel is updated In a Forest Dark and Deep

From May 20–30, In a Forest, Dark and Deep brought intrigue and mystery to the Havana Theatre. Presented by Naked Goddess Productions and directed by Tamara McCarthy, the Western Canadian premiere of this show provided an intimate glance into the intricacies of sibling relationships.

The play, written by Neil LaBute, takes its inspiration from the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel, but is told in a modern setting. The play itself has an overall dark tone, with a plot based around characters Betty and Bobby attempting to untangle one another’s secrets. There is a definite vilification of both characters throughout the piece, with a strong emphasis on the darkness within Betty, a dean at a college who is married with children. Her brother, Bobby, seems both hero and antagonist as secrets are revealed throughout the narrative.

With such intricate writing comes a great level of difficulty for the actors involved. Both Carlo Marks (Bobby) and Sandra Medeiros (Betty) managed the task well.

Marks delivered a breathtaking performance: each discovery was met with an intense, engaging reaction. His interpretation of the brutish blue-collar carpenter was at once relatable and infuriating in the best possible way. All at once, his portrayal made one want to both slap him, and give him a cup of tea and a warm blanket.

Medeiros counterbalanced Marks quite well. Her portrayal of Betty was very engaging. However, I felt the character was missing a basic humanity and relatability, which may have been the fault of the writing, or of interpretation. Despite this, Medeiros gave a strong performance of her deep and flawed character.

The lighting, done by Graham Ockley, worked extremely well on the beautiful, intricate set designed by Triane Tambay. Even in the blackbox theatre of the Havana, the stage looked amazing at all times, the set effortlessly transporting the audience into a cabin deep in the woods.

An interesting use of parallelism shown through costuming comes about as Bobby removes a flannel button up shirt to reveal a grey tee, jeans, and brown work boots, in contrast to Betty’s more chic grey long-sleeve, expensive denim jeans, and heeled brown boots. At once, the characters reflected the flaws in one another, while also showing their stark differences.

The play speaks to the intense nature of relationships, and provides a commentary on the practice of manipulation. Questioning morality and the connections of familial bonds, In a Forest, Dark and Deep keeps audiences interested with its constant revelations as the narrative twists and turns. An exercise in exploring the dynamics of pain, healing, truth, and lies in a patriarchal culture, the play is certainly dark, and extraordinarily deep.

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