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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cinderella through the Ages

UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School finds Cinderella in every culture

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The character of Cinderella, where humility becomes nobility and the downtrodden rise, may be as old as storytelling. Possibly, every major culture has its Cinderella story. Writer/director Robin Mello cleverly explores the history of the character with UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts Theatre Department in Cinderella: The First 30,000 Years.

Staged with casual intensity in a studio theater environment, the production casts BFA student Tiffany Kiepert as a doctoral candidate delving into the complex history of the character. A diverse ensemble renders a complex patchwork of different elements from various iterations of the story. Versions of the story are presented from Egypt to Russia to Hollywood to an American college campus.

The show drags a bit in places—an extended bit of conflict between Kimberly Clark Gartrell and Rachel Meldman as an aboriginal goddess and a Disney Fairy Godmother feels a bit forced, but Clark Gartrell and Meldman fare much better elsewhere. Clark Gartrell has a gravity about her that grounds the history of the story quite well. Meldman is quite captivating as the German incarnation of Cinderella.

The production covers a tremendous amount of ground in less than one hour without feeling rushed. The near universal familiarity of the story aids Mello and company in moving rapidly from Prince Charming to Fairy Godmother to Wicked Stepsisters without following a traditional narrative structure. The show returns from intermission with Kiepert’s doctoral candidate staving off an unruly mass of Cinderellas armed only with a Swiffer. There’s a deliciously feverish whimsy about the proceedings that manages to grab hold of some real emotion.

Cinderella: The First 30,000 Years runs through May 4 at Kenilworth Studio 508, 1925 E. Kenilworth Place. For tickets, call 414-229-4308 or visit arts.uwm.edu/tickets.