Into the Woods
By Cait Collins
I enjoy movies and stage plays. The ingenuity of set designers for the two mediums, special effects, and costume designer along with the actors’ interpretations of the characters and the directors’ visions make for interesting entertainment. When a story is presented as both a play and a movie, you can have a real treat.
I saw Into the Woods on stage several years ago at the Amarillo Little Theater. ALT has a reputation for presenting both family friendly and more adventurous plays. I have never been disappointed in a production by the ALT team. Into the Woods falls into the more adult realm. It is a fractured fairy tale with themes not necessarily suitable for young children. The director and his cast broke the darkness with humor. In one scene, the two princes were a bit over the top in their duet, which was fine. That fit the directors’ interpretation of the playwright’s words.
The new Disney version is equally interesting. The cast is top notch, the music fantastic, the scene and set design amazing, and the photography out of this world. While special effects were involved, they did not overwhelm the production. I enjoyed the movie version every bit as much as the stage play.
The Disney Studios are masters of animation and live action entertainment. As a child I cheered when Cinderella married the prince. Both characters were perfect. They had no flaws. On the other hand, the stepmother and stepsisters had no redeeming qualities. Into the Woods also presents the stepsisters and stepmother as void of good. However, both the Prince and Cinderella are allowed flaws. In so doing, they are more believable. Even Red Riding Hood is more than a cardboard character. While the animated version is great for kids, it’s not satisfying for adults. Grown-ups know people have both good and bad qualities.
Writers must use this knowledge to craft characters that are real and multi-dimensional. Even the most evil character has at least one redeeming quality. Maybe he loves and cares for his kids. Perhaps it’s a soft spot for his mother. The author must employ all the character’s traits to make him or her grounded and alive. As I learned from Into the Woods, even Prince Charming had his weakness. And I liked him better for the flaw.