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Constance Alexander: There is no ‘happily ever after’ for the fairy tale princesses in ‘Disenchanted’

Once upon a time this past weekend, four fairy tale princesses vacated their respective castles and stepped on stage at Murray’s Playhouse in the Park to kvetch about how Disney transformed them for the big screen. No coy claque of coquettes, the cast of “Disenchanted” lunged for the jugular as they assessed the sorry state of princesses who succumbed to one kiss from a handsome prince and lived ever after with a lifetime of consequences.

The four lead characters in the raucous musical — Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” – differ from their dim-witted, Disney counterparts. Snow White, no longer the hapless reject of a wicked stepmother, is described as “brassy and ballsy” in the script. Cinderella, though admittedly ditsy, is smart enough to relinquish her glass slippers for more sensible footwear.

(Illustration by Jan Matulka, Wikimedia Commons)

Sleeping Beauty can barely stay awake throughout the play. Often lapsing into lethargy, she snuffled and snorted in a decidedly un-princess demeanor, during her frequent, on-stage naps.

Admitting to a strange proclivity for conversations with candlesticks, clocks, and other loquacious, inanimate objects, Belle, of “Beauty and the Beast,” complained about having to clean up her husband’s beastly droppings.

The four leads — played with fervor by Tesla Like, Sabry Poor, Tory Daughrity, and Kate Mizell — confessed to the audience that were determined to tell the truth, set the record straight. The way they put it, “all those films and fairytales are driving us out of our freakin’ princess minds.”

“All us chicks from princess flicks have something more to say,” they insisted.

One after another, other Disney damsels stepped into the spotlight to speak and sing their piece. Mulan “didn’t get the guy” because she is a lesbian. The Little Mermaid lost her fins and got her land legs because it was the only way she could marry her lover boy, a handsome prince who tumbled into the ocean on a particularly dark and stormy night.

“I gave him mouth to mouth,” Ariel says, and the rest is herstory.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

Speaking of men and history, the exploitation of Pocahontas began with her body type, according to her solo in “Disenchanted.”

“You know you were written by a guy when your chest pokes out someone’s eye,” she explained.

A quartet of cuties sang it loud and proud:

I got a backache cause

Those men who made me up

Made sure I’d runneth at the cup

The nameless princess who kissed the frog is Black, a “sistah,” according to the script.

“I’m sure it took some persuasion,” she crooned, “to draw me darker than caucasian.”

When Rapunzel showed up she was a typisch Deutsche fräulein with a fierce uni-brow and nasty facial mole. She railed against economic exploitation.

“You wouldn’t believe the cockamamie merchandise they put us poor princesses on,” she griped.

As a “secondary princess in a secondary role,” Princess Badroubadour got a few minutes to assess her role in fairytale history. Aladdin, her leading man, sought adventure and earned kudos for his exploits, while her future meant disappearing into the harem, free to breed but not drive.

Playhouse in the Park presented “Disenchanted” as a “For adults only” production, their way of giving audiences fair warning about material that some might find objectionable. Last Thursday night, when I viewed it, I could not help thinking about the probability that plays like “Disenchanted” may become, once again, verboten because of the issues raised, albeit in a playful manner.

As it celebrates 45 years of operations in Murray, Playhouse in the Park will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of presenting controversial material like “Disenchanted” in an emerging era when women’s constitutional rights are being taken away so they can produce babies and live someone else’s version of happily ever after, still underpaid, overworked, without decent universal and affordable health care, and child care, etc.

And if some of the legislating princes continue to have their way, other rights like birth control and in vitro fertilization will be out of reach to damsels in true distress.

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