I had planned to cover more than one show on my last day at Fringe, but my plans got unexpectedly cut short after my first performance of the day. Although I’m disappointed not to have seen more, The Grimmer Side: Classic Stories for a Modern Time served as an excellent capstone to the festival, as it embodies so many of the qualities that Fringe brings into the spotlight: vivid storytelling in a variety of venues (this was at the Playwrights’ Center) by talented artists who may not otherwise enjoy the level of publicity that they can get at Fringe.
In a completely welcome bid for support, Katie Knutson starts The Grimmer Side by offering her audience some dark chocolate to set the mood and get in tune with our darker sides. (I don’t know if it worked, but this was some high-quality, delicious chocolate.) Bribery or no, Knutson is an engaging storyteller with a strong point of view, who knows how to use her face and her voice to weave her characters’ emotions in with her own. Normally a storyteller for children, she uses the Fringe as her opportunity to tell three gritty, adults-only stories that have surprising modern-day echoes. Beginning with the somewhat tender and sad A Selkie Tale, Knutson quickly ups the ante in the more gruesome story of The Juniper Tree. (Think Hansel and Gretel is a little grizzly? Try guillotining your stepson with an apple chest.) But really, the first two stories were laying the foundation for Talia, Sun, and Moon, Knutson’s final tale, which re-examines Sleeping Beauty by connecting it to her own personal experience and to the Steubenville rape case. This last interpretation was so powerful that it left me wanting a similar degree of connection in the first two stories – but then again, it would be easy to take the concept too far, and Knutson’s light touch at the beginning avoids any sense of over-moralizing at the end.
This was the last show in the run, and I am sorry that I can’t tell you all to be sure to go see Knutson’s performance. But she is hoping to revive this in some other form, and to that I would give her an enthusiastic yes.