If its title makes you think that The Giant And The Pixie will be a holiday show for kids, think again. This world premiere drama is most definitely for adults only, and though its fantasy aspect (each character has a fairy tale counterpart) didn’t work for me, and despite the characters not being people I’d want to hang around with, the excellent work of the five-actor cast makes The Giant And The Pixie worth seeing.

Writer/director Jonathan Josephson sets his tale in “a mall and elsewhere” and calls the story “part fact, part fiction.” We first meet “The Giant,” aka Arthur the janitor, when cute young clothing store exec Cipriana, “The Pixie,” slips and falls into his arms. A chatty girl, Cipriana immediately begins confiding in Arthur about her troubles with her ex, Sebastian, aka “The Knight”. (It turns out that even after she’d fixed him up with “someone great,” Sebastian just can’t stop being in love with her.) It’s obvious from the get-go that Arthur is head over heels for Cipriana, and it turns out that Arthur has already promised to help her get Sebastian transferred elsewhere. “I’m not a criminal, or a bitch,” declares Cipriana, though as the play progresses, we can’t help wondering if she’s at least borderline both.

The cast of characters is completed by Cipriana’s father, aka The Boss, aka “The Magician,” and homeless Gregory, aka “The Troll.” When Gregory importunes The Boss (who ties with Sebastian for least sympathetic character) for a quarter, the entirely unpleasant older man replies with a resounding “I don’t want you here. I don’t want you in my parking lot.” then appends his order with a not particularly nice “I’m being fair and treating you as you deserve” just before going ballistic.

Meanwhile, Sebastian, aware that Arthur is his rival for Cipriana’s heart, decides to accuse the (in his words) “retarded” janitor of having stolen six or seven Hugo Boss suits from their inventory.  “I know it was him and I’ll get him fired,” he informs Cipriana, though it’s quite possible that Sebastian may have had something to do with the suits’ disappearance. 

As Arthur and Cipriana begin spending more time together, she starts to open up to him about her relationship with the abusive Sebastian, whose behavior since their breakup keeps getting uglier and more violent. In one particularly unpleasant scene, Sebastian picks a fight with Gregory, and when The Troll won’t fight back, The Magician turns out to be someone who quite literally kicks a man when he’s down.  Even the lovely Cipriana may not be as nice as she originally seems.

Throughout the play, lighting switches take us from reality into fantasy sequences in which cast members, alternating as storytellers, reflect on the real life characters’ fairy tale counterparts.  We learn that “giants are by far the most mysterious of creatures,” that pixies are “a difficult puzzle for even the greatest mind to solve,” that “all knights live by a code,” and that magicians are “all-knowing and uncaring.”  Fans of Dungeons and Dragons will likely respond more positively to these interludes than I did.

As always, the Chance Theater has assembled some of the O.C.’s finest actors, whose performances here are uniformly terrific.  Bruno Patrick Giannotta couldn’t be better, or better cast, as Arthur, capturing the character’s sweetness and sincerity, and being just hunky enough that we accept the possibility that Cipriana is attracted to him, all the while wondering if The (gentle) Giant is just being used. Kristin Norris makes a welcome return to the Chance as Cipriana, and with her short red do, couldn’t be more pixyish. The charismatic Norris shows us both sides of Cipriana, the cute and the calculating. In the role of Gregory, Jara Jones once again proves himself a young character actor of great gifts and career promise. The one-of-a-kind Jones makes it abundantly clear that the Troll’s scary exterior masks the character’s gentleness and depth.  Chris Raiskup (cited on StageSceneLA’s Best of 2007-2008 lists for his superb performance in Variations On A Theme) does great work here too as Sebastian, never giving in to any temptation to make The Magician sympathetic. Finally, Richard Comeau (cited on StageSceneLA’s Best of 2005-2006 lists for his outstanding work in Coyote On A Fence) gives a compelling performance as The Boss, only marginally more pleasant than his would-be son-in-law but never dull.

Technical elements (Christopher Scott Murillo’s set, Jeff Brewer’s lighting, Sunita Mager’s costumes, and Dave Mickey’s sound design) are all first-rate, and Michael Irish deserves snaps for his fight choreography, particularly in one particularly rough sequence between Jones and Raiskub.

The Chance Theater is once again to be saluted for taking chances, this time on an original work by company member (and resident dramaturge) Josephson. With the company sadly eliminating their edgy “Evolving Stage” productions in 2009, it may be a while before they do another original.  Though as a play The Giant And The Pixie is not particularly my cup of tea, thanks to its five terrific performances, the production is certainly worth checking out.

Chance Theater, 5555 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills.

–Steven Stanley
November 23, 2008
Photos: Doug Catiller

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