By Monica Charline Brown
Beauty and the Beast really is a “tale as old as time.” This cherished Disney classic includes the always promised happy ending. What would have happened if Belle never arrived at the castle though? The newest play from Everyday Inferno Theatre Company, Glassheart, bravely pursues that very question. The imaginative ensemble of creatives assembles two hours of inspired and inventive theater.
An array of lamps, and an assortment of picture frames, whimsically dangle from the ceiling, decorating the space. Accumulated by set designer Caitlynn Barrett, it is clear magic is going to take place. An effervescent woman clad with a lampshade as a hat, along with a curmudgeon of a man, bumble into the room. The woman is actually a lamp (Meghann Garmany) and the man is essentially The Beast (Christopher Alexey Diaz). The lamp is the last servant to be standing by The Beast after the arduous curse cast upon him centuries ago. Together they have successfully journeyed from a European palace to an apartment in Chicago. A mysterious yet warm landlady, who is in reality The Witch (Virginia Roncetti), awaits the duo.
The solitary solution to breaking the spell is a lovely woman who moves into the building. Her name is Aoife, which means “beauty.” A Belle fit for modern times, she wears a beanie and sneakers and is about to start work at a bookstore. Carey Cox is the actress who gives Aoife down-to-earth and relatable energy (fun fact: she recently understudied Laura in The Glass Menagerie revival on Broadway). There seems to be hope as The Beast soon expresses a tinge of vulnerability towards her.
Time passes…The lamp convinces Aoife to stick around by explaining that her life will be waiting to return at any time. The lamp continues to design Aoife’s life, ditching her exterior as a hipster girl, upgrading Aoife to a ball gown. Aoife becomes fonder of The Beast each month. The lamp and Aoife even bond, as Aoife gives the lamp a name. A childhood ritual of naming her things random words from the dictionary, the result is “Only.” Only has a literal lightness about her that goes hand in hand with Aoife’s patience and tolerance. Without giving away the ending, the story wraps up like a perfect package.
Reina Hardy, the playwright of Glassheart and frequent collaborator with Everyday Inferno, has created a text featuring a beautiful matrimony between contemporary dialect and snippets of heightened language. The play drips with heart and ingenuity without being overly sappy or sentimental. Hardy has a gift for telling a story through a feminist and current lens minus beating social commentary over the head. Her play is in virtuous hands with director (and costume designer) Anaïs Koivisto, assisted by Peter Charney. Through them, the themes of what it means to be human, what is possible versus impossible, and how love is the epicenter of everything come to the forefront.
Sam Kaseta’s sound design and musical composition is picture-perfect, enhancing the storyline with doses of enchantment. Ali Hall’s lighting design hits a colorful palette, highlighting moments of mystique and providing insight into a character’s emotional state. Allison Beler, the choreographer and movement consultant, is a key component to pulling off the quirk required of a fairy tale. Whether through a brief dance in the likes of Fred Astaire, or by helping actors with physicality striking a stunning balance between human and creature or object, her work does not go unnoticed. In like manner, Jon Meyer’s fight choreography is significant.
Everyday Inferno Theatre Company seeks to be adventurous in the telling of women’s stories in a low budget setting. Glassheart is the perfect embodiment of their mission.