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Review: Undergraduate Theater Society’s ‘Aesop’s Fables’ offers surprising twist on original fables

Intended for younger viewers, this devised piece gave audiences a new take on the age-old tales

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You all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise won the race because he was slow and steady, unlike the hare, who thought he was going to win so he took a nap out of arrogance. But, what if that wasn’t how the story went?

Tucked away in a meadow of trees near Drumheller Fountain lies Sylvan Grove, the stage for the Undergraduate Theater Society’s unique production of “Aesop’s Fables,” which ran from May 26 to June 2. A group of bold, misunderstood animals take the stage for a chance to finally tell their side of the story.

“Aesop’s Fables” opens up ordinarily enough. The old storyteller Aesop comes out and recounts his famous fables, and the animals work together to act them out. However, the animals become increasingly confused by the endings of the stories.

They believe that Aesop left out valuable details, making some of them look like the bad guys. They take control of the storytelling and add their own endings, free from stereotypes and misjudgment. Ultimately, the animals end up teaching Aesop a lesson.

This special play sheds light onto the harm that knowing only part of the story can do, and it emphasizes the importance of listening to each side. The UTS production team, lead by directors Ryn Paris and Grecia Leal, crafted the script well and offered more sensical endings to the fables. There were moments of comedy that left room for a few giggles and smirks, and the humor is well suited for the target younger audiences.

Cassidy Barrows, the costume designer, kept it simple with artfully decorated masks that let the audience know which animal was on stage. In order to change to a new animal, the actors would switch out the mask discreetly while the audience was distracted. At times, this made the play hard to follow with the constant changing of the animals. However, with the flow of the dialogue, it was easy enough to catch up with the story.

The natural environment of Sylvan Grove worked well with the play. The canopy of trees that covered the field allowed for intimacy with the actors. It truly felt like you were watching a set of animals in the wild take charge of their fate.

The whimsical nature of the show was well-conveyed by the actors, who brought the right amount of humor and empathy to the show, bringing the animals to life. One performance that stood out was Nicoletta Gilbertson as Aesop. She perfectly captured the vision of an old, grumpy man who learns to listen to the other side of the story. In the revised story of the tortoise and the hare, Gilbertson, as an animal, falls down a well and gets trapped. The hare leaves the race to go help out the animal, which tires out the hare. This is the reason why the hare took a nap in the middle of the race. Gilbertson and the other actors brought joyful jokes to the stage that allowed the true moral of the story to shine.

UTS’s “Aesop’s Fables” made for an adorable play about the importance of knowing the whole story. The play was well-suited for both children and adults, with moments that people of any age can enjoy.

Though the end of “Aesop’s Fables” marked the end of UTS’s season for this academic year, they have a couple of upcoming events in June and will be back next year with a full season of shows.

Reach contributing writer Angel Reddy at Twitter: @chreddy_uw

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