Review of 'Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups'

By Hephzibah Dutt

Veteran storyteller Laura Parker mesmerizes in this revisioning of traditional fairy tales. Drawing upon the purist tradition of oral narrative—no set, no props, just you and her and the stories—she will in turn scare, surprise, challenge and delight.

“My story is about promises made of my behalf,” begins the first-person narrative of a story we knew once as Beauty as the Beast. In all her stories, Packer enlists her audience as co-creators (“You remember how…” “You know what happens next…”), while simultaneously thwarting what we know and remember of these stories.

Packer liberally skirts around the narrative trajectory to delve into characters’ psyches and musings. Without a hint of heavy-handed exposition, she brings nuance to characters who, in their source texts, seem foolish, ridiculous or just insane. It will be impossible not to catch a glimpse of yourself or someone you love in at least one of these tales.

As an added treat, improv and audience participation blend together in her version of Little Red Riding Hood, promising hilarity, awkwardness and a story that will never be told the same way twice.

Packer delivers on the sub-titular promise of stories that are “Darker. Grimmer. Funnier. Sexier,” and while I wouldn’t disregard the “for adults” designation, I would venture that this show might be appropriate for mature teens. This is owed entirely to Packer’s style—honest and sensual to the core, but without even a trace of gratuitous lasciviousness.

At a time where the trend in oral narrative is for personal, autobiographic stories, Packer, a student and teacher of fairy tales returns to fairy tales because she finds in them undeniable truths in a mode that allows for fun and light-heartedness. “There is so much vitriol out there. Stories such as these offer talking points in these morally ambiguous times.”

And sure enough, Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups reflect back upon the viewer-listener truths about the world and self that might have been forgotten, ignored or disregarded. In Packer’s dexterous hands, the familiar is made unfamiliar, and unfamiliar made humorous, anything simple, saccharine or common is unmasked to reveal depth, darkness and humanity and its grotesque best.