Dallas — “Creating opportunities for children of color to experience theater that is reflective of their culture” is one of the hallmarks of Soul Rep Theatre Company.
RE-TALES: The Flyest Fairy Tales Ever Told attempts just that by taking classic fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters and pushing them through an urban and R&B lens. Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Lil’ Red Riding Hood and Pinnochio are but a few of the characters that were turned a little upside-down in translation. The retales are “The Spry Lady,” “Pinnochi-Toe,” “Mary and Kid,” “Lil’ Red Rides the ‘Hood,” and “Sherry Perry’s Garden.”
RE-TALES is actually a refreshed version of a resurrected older piece (Rep Tales) written by company co-founder and artistic director Guinea Bennett-Price and her husband Keith Price. For this retelling, they changed a few characters and added music written by Professor Keyz and Keith Price.
The best elements of this production are the children in the cast, most of whom are experienced though young. They are excited, energized, confident and appear to be having fun. Thanks to a Racial Equity grant from the Communities Foundation of Texas, and an ongoing relationship with the South Dallas Cultural Center, Soul Rep is able to have performances for elementary and middle school children in the South Dallas area.
Children in the cast are: Dustyn DeWayne Carter (Kid/Flower), Te’a Casa (Mary contrary, Flower No. 3 and Wolfette), Jaylon Mobley (Wolf Pack/Driver/Flower), Qaadir Muhammad (Lil’ Red), and Esau Price (Pinnochi-Toe). Two actors have portrayed Spry Lady: Carrington Whigham and Jori Jackson. Leading the ensemble and in the title role is Jaquai Wade-Pearson as Ms. ReTale. The role of Sherry Perry is carried by Morgana Wilborn. Douglas Carter (Poppa Puppet Maker), Gabrielle Gray (Mama Red/Wendy) and Irwin Daye (Wolf Man) round out the cast.
Structurally, the script needs work, as does the soundtrack which leaves a few of the actors’ singing abilities unnecessarily exposed. Awkward. Some of the conceptual disconnect may have resulted from having two directors, Guinea Bennett-Price and Daylene Carter.
But for its struggles organizationally, RETALES holds together because of the children. Tonya Holloway and Shirley Tyler’s costumes help clarify the identity of the characters without exaggeration.
RETALES is about an hour long, which is perfect for families with small children.