BRISTOL, Tenn. — Stride inside Theatre Bristol’s ARTspace. Snag a seat to look straight ahead.
Witness 12 chairs on the stage to the far left, a handful to the far right. In the middle stands a judge’s bench. Ensconced in a brown wooden courtroom, one may wonder when Perry Mason will enter.
Jurors filled the chairs to the left, plaintiffs and a defendant to the right. Upon entry of the judge, thus began Theatre Bristol’s “The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.” Hilarity on the docket, laughter accompanies nearly every line spoken during the fast-paced, two-act play.
“It’s very punny,” said Samantha Gray, the show’s producer.
Writer Joseph Robinette incorporated legions of characters from familiar nursery rhymes and bedtime stories. Jurors include Humpty Dumpty and Cinderella. The Three Little Pigs serve as plaintiffs, Wallington Wellington Wolf III — the big bad wolf, the defendant.
The pigs are suing the big bad wolf. They accuse him of having blown their houses down.
“We laugh together,” Gray said. “We all know it’s funny. It’s not just clever; we all grew up with these characters.”
Director Camille Gray, a veteran actor at Theatre Bristol, directs “The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.” When last staged 10 years ago by the longtime community theater in downtown Bristol, she played Cinderella.
“So different now,” said Camille Gray, 21, a directing major at Emory & Henry College.
“The set was totally different, and all of the costumes are different, except Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty,” she said. “This set is different. The old one was like a castle courtroom. I wanted a modern courtroom with this one. There’s a contrast between the colors of the costumes and the brown of the courtroom.”
Then as now, “The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf” elicits flurries of laughter.
Much of the humor exudes from a series of sight gags. There’s the ridiculous appearance of and lines spoken by Judge Wise O. Al, portrayed marvelously by Steve Baskett. Humpty Dumpty, played spectacularly well by Andrew Bailey, bears a plain ole goofy and funny appearance with lines to match.
“It’s good, pure fun,” Camille Gray said.
Act One provides what appears to be the facts of the case at hand.
“Order in the court!” said Baskett, gavel in hand and on the bench as Judge Wise O. Al. “Let’s get this trial started.”
Introductions of the jury provide a stream of one-liners. Incorporation of three reporters, one each from television and print, as well as a town crier, offers not-so-subtle topical commentary.
Then the Three Little Pigs step forth. As plaintiffs, they provide vivid testimony via demonstrations to assert their charge that the wolf destructed their homes. You know the story.
“Little pigs, little pigs, please let me come in,” said Luke Gray as Wellington Wallington Wolf III. He huffs, and he puffs, and down falls a pig’s house. And so forth.
“Act One, it’s the story of the three pigs and the wolf,” Camille Gray said. “Act Two begins, and it’s like, where did this come from?”
However, the second act of “The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf” veers into several unexpected and hysterical avenues. Turned upside down and spun every which-a-way, the story and its characters provide whirlwinds of humor. Only the dead wouldn’t laugh.
“When I make a kid laugh during the show, my work is done,” Camille Gray said. “Adults get it on one level, kids on another. You’ll sit there and smile the whole time. It’s so pure and sweet.”