The slant rhyme of the title is just the beginning of the delightful whimsy sprouting from The Near Disaster of Jasper & Casper, an adult fantasy blooming out of a simple black box at Theatre Row and blossoming through the antics of its writer, Jason Woods.
The tale begins on October 32nd in the mythical village of Bellalore, just as the Festival of the Queen is about to begin. Brothers Casper and Jasper are in desperate need to increase their income from the single gold coin they share between them, and Casper seeks to put his acting talent to use in the festival (a talent questionable by everyone else but him.)
As Festwick, the Queen’s Herald announces the proceedings, Winifred Isabel Titania Charlotte Higgins (initials “WITCH”) enters the scene, eventually followed by a dragon guide Cadmus Hexamus, and eventually the Dragon itself, one ThresselpexemachontraDeMakedor the 14th, and the Queen herself, just as wicked as any could imagine.
Toss a few other personalities in the mix, and you have quite the plethora of fanciful characters, all of which share a most deliciously common element being the single actor portraying all of them, playwright Jason Woods. Using some broad but quite inventive strokes, Woods manages to define each of these characters so fully that they spring to light and life beyond the space he occupies in his unassuming clothing. Vocal intonation, inflection, and accents all whirl together with a myriad of facial mutations, hand gestures and body postures so quickly and vividly that one truly forgets there is just one person on stage.
Woods embellishes his adept storytelling with well-placed music (of his own writing) and dramatic lighting, both of which are well-placed by sound and lighting designer Dave Ferdinand. The direction by Michelle Svenson Kindy orchestrates all elements to a delectable blend.
As a piece of writing, The Near Disaster of Jasper & Casper is whacky and creative, and except for a couple of out-of-place bits of humor, one involving a middle finger and another a candle called “Blow Me,” it is charmingly humorous. The story even becomes lightly touching when Jasper’s love for his brother Casper is tested, and Jasper learns the real meaning of family and what it is to be responsible for others besides himself.
The Near Disaster of Jasper & Casper is a thoroughly enjoyable, quirky fairy tale told by an expert storyteller, Jason Woods. By the end of this foray into the woods, it was time to go, I hated to leave, I had to, though. Worth a second viewing.
The Near Disaster of Jasper & Casper (through September 18, 2022)
Theatre Five at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit https://bfany.org/theatre-row/shows/the-near-disaster-of-jasper-casper/
Running time: 80 minutes without an intermission