The Tiger’s Bride

Reviewer's rating

If you know anything about the morbid folk tale of Bluebeard, then an immersive theater invitation to explore his house may either terrify you or titillate you. Theater Uzume is hoping for the latter as they transform the Cell Theater in Chelsea into the home of Gilles de Rais, ostensibly in 1920s France, for the occasion of his marriage to his fresh young bride. Acrobatic performances, interpretive dance, and immersive clue-finding, as well as some not-so-subtle foreshadowing ensue. 

The beginning of the show is a little shaky, with the characters (dressed as castle staff working the wedding reception) mingling amongst arriving guests and doing their best to convey a creepy sense of foreboding. Very present and very chipper is the mother of the bride (Heather Meyer), who works the room to make sure everyone knows the setting and the context. Before long, the groom, Gilles de Rais – named for the medieval murderer who is popularly thought to have (but probably didn’t) inspire Charles Perrault’s 17th-century Bluebeard tale – arrives. Not long after, his bride (Sammy Marsh) descends with due pomp and circumstance, and we witness their marriage. The bride sets the tone for the evening by putting on an impressive aerial silks performance for her new husband.  But Bluebeard (Will Watt) suddenly has to leave “for work” and urges us all to stay and explore…just not behind the one door that his special key opens!

The structure of the show after this is part scavenger hunt, part sporadic interpretive dance piece. Each audience member is handed a punch card and told to collect four different fairy tales, all being told by mysterious inhabitants of the castle on different floors of the building. The characters seem to be based on tales from Angela Carter’s modern collection of fairy tale adaptations, “The Bloody Chamber,” which delves into such familiar stories as Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss-in-Boots, and Snow White, and more – and, of course, Bluebeard and his final bride from the titular story.

While the punch card element is a bit clunky and some scenes a little tedious, many of the performances have exciting choreography and visuals – not an easy feat in some of the more intimate spaces of the smaller rooms on the upper floors. There is plenty to explore, and it’s easy to move between floors if you’re feeling restless. Throughout it all, Sammy Marsh as The Bride flits from room to room searching for the mysterious keyhole that might match the secret key she was told not to use. She is a fun character to follow, full of the fresh curiosity of an ingénue and a little bit of panic. 

But perhaps the best element of the show is Lily Desmond, credited merely as “Maestro.” Not only did they compose all of the strange, beautiful, and eerie music that underscores the entire show, they perform it throughout as well. Lily’s violin, voice, and lyrics are a beacon which the actors follow dutifully. The scenes accompanied by Lily’s playing are the most striking of the show.

Bluebeard doesn’t return until the end, but when he does, all the secrets and scavenger hunts come to a dramatic and appropriately creepy climax. Justice is finally served. The good guys have won the day in this particular fairy tale, but we are reminded to beware of tigers. With its macabre theme, cozy setting, unique music, and a sincere and enthusiastic cast, The Tiger’s Bride is an intriguing romp through the darker side of fairy tales. 

Created by Theater Uzume

Directed, written, and choreographed by Suzanne Karpinski

Composer & Maestro: Lily Desmond

Sound design: Will Watt

Cast includes: Lily Desmond, Danie Kohn, Sammy Marsh, Maggie McMuffin, Heather Meyer, Tara Quinn, Molly Siskin, Maks Turner, Will Watt, Rob Williams

Running time: approx 90 minutes