A fairy tale of love that won't rest

Perseverance's comic fairy tale tells of a town where its folk just won't let go of memories, love and loss

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2002

Perseverance Theatre is taking audiences to Brood, a tiny, tedious town located south of reason, north of heartbroken and smack in the middle of memory with its latest play, "The Wooden Breeks."

Playwright Glen Berger and visiting Director Wier Harman flesh out this farcical fairy tale depicting what happens to those who get stuck obsessing over the past.

"The play is about brooding," said Harman. "It's what happens to you when you spend your life obsessing and confining yourself in the past and when you bring your past into the present hoping it's been changed or redirected somehow.

"In life, like this play, it is usually related to relationships gone south," Harman said.

One relationship that's gone as south as it gets is the one between the main character, Chimney Bosch the storyteller, and Hetty Grigs, his ghostly lover. Grigs died while giving birth to her child, Wicker, leaving Bosch with only questions and regrets of questions he never asked her in life.

As Bosch attempts to make yet another futile effort to leave town and escape his nagging memories of Hetty, a story strikes him. He begins to spin a tale of a traveling saleswoman, much in the likeness of Hetty, who sets the town of Brood on its ear with the promise of something new - a bell device that prevents people from accidentally getting buried alive in their coffins. The play derives its name from this coffin motif as "Wooden breeks" is old Scottish slang for "coffin."

Bosch weaves a story about a town where the constancy of the lighthouse, with its bookish keeper, blinks a sort of metronome pace for the town's inner workings. Here the widow is always mourning, the lovers are always beautiful, the vicar is anything but temporary, the gravedigger takes what he can get, nothing changes and all roads lead back to Brood.

"We wanted the characters to be a little exaggerated since it is a fairy tale," Harman said. "They are archetypes for the different aspects of memory that make up a brood."

The townspeople occasionally move like automata, repeating familiar motions as if forever stuck in a jellied haze of flashback and memory. According to a note from the playwright to the performers, automata describes the movement of 19th century figurines "I used to see in Christmas window displays."

"I remembered how riveting and haunting I found them," he said. "The slow, relatively smooth quality of the movement, often accompanied with the mouthing of words I'd never hear, seemed all the more like a dream, or a memory now distilled into the archetype of memory."

Though the storyteller creates the tale, the town and its inhabitants, he and his young friend Wicker, cannot find their way out.

"That's the nature of a brood," Harman said. "You can't leave until it's spent itself. There's no magic bullet. When you lose someone or lose love all you want is the chance to get it back or do things differently so that this time it works. To make hurt go away.

"But nothing makes it go away," he said. "And it sucks. But it's going to suck until it doesn't suck anymore, until it plays itself out."

The people of Brood, with the help of Bosch, eventually play out their own stories and reconcile with their pasts to create an ending fit for a fairy tale.

Actor Anita Maynard-Losh, who plays Hetty Grigs, said people should not be misled by the fairy-tale nature of the play.

"Even in a fairy tale there is a kind of reality," she said. "Any kind of fantasy world has its own inner reality that has rules and laws all its own. ... Because of that, it allows you to believe in what is happening. I think people will recognize that and enjoy seeing in a fairy tale what they see in their own lives."

The Wooden Breeks opens at Perseverance Theater in Douglas March 7 and runs through March 24.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.

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