Francesca Talenti’s theater work is performed on the Hillsborough Riverwalk on the last Friday of each month through September.
Sixteenth-century Italy probably isn’t the first place you’d think to look for experimental filmmaker and futuristic multimedia artist Francesca Talenti. Nor might you have imagined the piquant postmodern playwright, who we last saw programming a thespian robot for her 2013 drama The Uncanny Valley, to choose environmental theater for a follow-up, placing her new work, a one-act for children called Wants Upon a Time, in and around Patrick Dougherty’s biodegradable sculpture “A Sight to Behold” on the Hillsborough Riverwalk.
The fantastical two-story castle of woven branches and sticks, situated a stone’s throw from Weaver Street Market, hosts this playful, punny commedia dell’arte take on the fairy tale of Rapunzel. Talenti has chosen her collaborators with care. Former Red Clay Rambler Jack Herrick and scripter Michael Malone have contributed winsome original songs. Though her troupe of performers swaps roles between shows, stage veteran Jeffrey Blair Cornell anchored a performance featuring talented actors from the local improv comedy scene in the company’s July dates.
In broad comic performances, Deborah Aronin’s winning Rapunzel languishes in her tower prison but fumes when Kit FitzSimons’s narcissistic Prince Vainglorious tries to take all the credit for her rescue. Talenti’s text interrogates exactly what “happily ever after” actually means, and for whom, when Cornell’s socially inept ogre demands his due.
In a script with enough contemporary in-jokes to keep adults amused, no dashing knight or wonderful witch winds up the real hero. You’ll be surprised when you learn who is.
-Byron Woods, Indyweek