Now if i’m not mistaken, in the classic fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast (published in 1740), which the new play, Glassheart by Reina Hardy is based upon, a Prince is turned into a hideous beast after he refuses to let a fairy in from the rain. Only by finding true love, despite his appearance, will the curse be lifted. In the original by the French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneauve, Beauty is the young daughter destined by circumstances surrounding her father and a storm (I’m not going to get too deep into the plot here, just watch the lovely film starring Emma Watson), to live out her days with the Beast as his mistress. In the French tale, he asks her to marry him every night, only to be refused by Beauty, because Beauty dreams of a handsome prince who she thinks is locked away somewhere in the castle. There is no talk of transformed servants in the original story, only that they are invisible to the eye and bring Beauty everything she wishes, but in the Disney versions, the servants were turned into household inanimate objects such as tea pots, clocks, and a feisty candelabra who goes by the name of Lumiere. They all are invested in the curse being broken, because they too want to return to their human form, and go back to living life. If the curse is never broken, and the last petal falls, these loving servants lose all human qualities and truly become inanimate. It’s a clever addition to the centuries old tale by the wise creators at Disney, one that adds to the team effort to lift the spell for all.
Hardy, in an attempt to fiddle with the classic tale, alters two components in order to explore the life-altering power of love, what sacrifices might be made in search of an ordinary life, and what and where does the value of this so-called ordinary existence reside. She suggests in the opening moments, that Beauty and love have not been found, and years and years have gone by with the Beast in isolation, reading about love, but slowly cutting him off more and more from humanity. ‘Despair’ is what he growls out into the universe as he wallows on the floor. The servant that has stayed with him, is the polar opposite of Lumiere, she is a lamp made human by the curse, there to shed light and care on her troubled master. They have decided to leave the castle after centuries of waiting, losing hope with every year, and move into an apartment in modern day Chicago. The Beast, played loudly and boldly by Christopher Alexey Diaz (Claudio in The Night Shift’s Measure for Measure) is first seen weeping in the corner of this antiquatedly furnished apartment, surrounded by the books he loves, and the rose bush he cherishes (although I’m not sure why as it doesn’t seem to have the same heightened magical purpose in this re-telling). The Lamp, portrayed brightly by Maghann Garmany (Regina Robbins’ Quicksand) arrives with suitcases and the cheeriest demeanor imaginable. She attempts to embody what a lamp would be like as a human, although maybe a bit too rigidly and constantly throughout. But she does have optimistic hope that this modern new world will bring love to their door, and the curse will be broken. The perplexing question that presents itself in this reworking, is what will happen to her if the Beast does find love? Will she be content to return to the world of the inanimate object? (Takes me back to that funny interesting play about Objectum Sexuality that I saw a while back called Inanimate.)
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