Joys in the Attic

BetterBiscuitDance at Richard Hugo House.

Like the fairy tale it's based on, BetterBiscuitDance's The Onion Twins (through Sun., Jan. 29; Richard Hugo House, 800-838-3006, is a combination of the probable and the fantastical. A queen wants a baby, and after trying more conventional remedies, she heads for the traditional assistance in folk stories, a witch. The plot that follows includes twins (a prince and a dragon), 100 reluctant village girls, and a "brave and clever" maiden who discovers the inner heart of the hero and lives happily ever after with him—the dragon, not the prince.

The payoff of The Onion Twins is not the unusual ending. It's in the intimate sounds of composer Michael Katell's score for a quartet of horn, oboe, cello, and violin; the charmingly homemade feel of the production, brimming with paper dolls and shadow puppets; and Alex Martin's sweet and tart choreography.

A witty collection of signature gestures identify the characters. The queen is tender but firm as she raises the prince, correcting his wandering hands as a ballet mistress might treat a student. The village girls, reluctant offerings to the dragon, tuck their hands behind their shoulders, giving them the disturbing look of a chorus of amputees. And when our brave and clever heroine hits on the idea of disguising herself in their 100 discarded wedding dresses, she becomes an elegant haystack, bobbing along in a waltz with the intrigued dragon.

Singers Craig Garretson and Megan Hook voice several of the characters, moving in and out of the action, and narrator Vanessa DeWolf stitches the rest together. Rebecca Brown's libretto is eminently singable, catching the folktale rhythm (complaining about a time when "a lad could live by his wits but a girl was still a girl"), and Katell's score makes saucy references to "The Girl From Ipanema" as the unwilling brides walk the runway. Martin and her partners have created a grown-up version of the child's theatrical you would make in the attic on a rainy day. And since lately almost all of our days have been rainy, The Onion Twins is particularly timely.

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