In a world where mannequins are people too, reality TV is always watching everything, and the Leader of the Free World is decided by phone in vote, American Idol style, two actors help bring meta-cultural absurdism to its critical mass.
Nancy Kenny is a superstar, let’s start there. She is a fantastic actress with a captivating stage presence and that’s all on play in her Princess Polly. Wes Babcock as her part-time foil part-time ally – I’m going to coin the term anti-antagonist – is a perfect hopeless unknowing douche. Don’t ever change, Prince Charming Type. Not that you ever would. As stereotypes go he is (and then some), she isn’t. The two play off each other with comfortable chemistry, though their relationship is nearly overshadowed by Polly and her on again off again mannequin boyfriend.
That is the kind of show this is. It’s absurd. It’s creative. It’s weird. It’s sort of brilliant.
The language of Your Princess Is In Another Castle is rooted in meta-culture. The things that we (and especially stand-up comics) say in commentary aboutthe quirks of our culture has become the culture here. It’s this absurdist charm that leads to a lot of humour and laughs in the show.
The comedy is built on pushing the existing absurdities in our own culture to the highest possible measures — like the lack of any private expectation for public figures, our fascination and addiction to social media trends, watching people rise and crash on reality television, and our overall love of spectacle over substance.
Confession: While I did laugh here and there (and the audience in general laughed a lot) that style of humour isn’t something I’m the biggest fan of. Through much of the first half of the show, my reaction bounced from amusement to “yeah, I get it, I saw the meme.” It was Princess Polly’s journey and Nancy Kenny’s portrayal that most kept me along for the ride.
I wanted to put that out there because the show managed to completely overcome that resistance through the quality of the writing and allowing the language to become the consistent norm. As the absurdity became normalized, it started to feel natural and real.
And once it’s real is when they can hit you with the emotional punch and bring you around to the message of the show — relating to the dangers and downward spiral of the cultural trends the show lampoons. The show is designed to provoke an emotional response and while still in its infancy, there’s an underlying genius already at work in it.
Your Princess Is In Another Castle is in the early stages of development, such that Babcock presents to the audience before the show starts that it’s a workshop presentation and feedback is welcome. The show will be tweaked, changed, tightened, and reworked, even between shows of this run. I’ll leave those specifics to them, one viewing is hardly enough to have taken it all in, but I certainly think that the foundation of what they’re building is certainly on solid ground. They’ve built a convincing world, are well on their way towards a powerful character journey, and I’m excited for its future.
I would not let the workshop status of this show deter you. Even as is, it’s quality theatre.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you love the show or was your princess in another castle? What are your thoughts on mannequin rights? Leave me a comment below and join the discussion.