Hansel and Gretel
As Told by the Brothers Grimm
JACOB: You have all heard the tale of "Hannibal's Metal" –
WILHELM: "Hansel and Gretel."
JACOB: "Hansel and Gretel." Sorry. I have too many tales in my head at once. (Laughs, realizes it was not a funny joke.) Right… Anyways… Wilhelm, would you?
WILHELM: Certainly. We decided, Jacob and I, to take our well-known story of Hansel and Gretel, and put it on the stage, for the entertainment of our beloved readers: you. So, if you would do the honors, brother.
JACOB: I have never been very much of a speaker, Wilhelm.
WILHELM: That was grammar school, Jacob. Years ago. Why don't you give it a try?
JACOB: Very well… Once upon a midnight dreary –
WILHELM: That's Edgar Allen Poe. We are the Brothers Grimm.
JACOB: Right. Sorry. Once upon a time, in a land far away…unless you live in it, of course…there was a terrible famine. Perhaps the most unfortunate of the people struck by this famine were a woodcutter, his wife, and his two children.
WILHELM: The names of who were, of course, Hansel and Gretel.
(As they speak, WOODCUTTER, WIFE, HANSEL, and GRETEL enter upstage of them. JACOB and WILHELM separate and cross to opposite sides of the stage.)
WOODCUTTER: Well, look on the bright side! We may be starving, but at least we are not dehydrated! Right?
WIFE: (Sarcastic) Oh, your optimism is overwhelming…
WOODCUTTER: In these times, that's all we have.
WIFE: Yes, that's all. Except for the two children we have to feed. Did you think of that?
WOODCUTTER: Yes, I did. And they need optimism.
WIFE: And we need food, husband. (She pulls him aside.) But we need to feed double what we have.
WOODCUTTER: Yes…what of it?
WIFE: Idiot! The children! I say we take the children into the forest tomorrow. There, we shall leave them to die.
JACOB: Did she just say die?
WILHELM: Yes, I think so.
JACOB: Mean lady.
WILHELM: Sshhh. We are getting to a good part.
GRETEL: What are we going to do?
HANSEL: I'll think of something.
GRETEL: You remember what happened last time you thought of something?
GRETEL: You wound up turning Father's chickens a nice shade of turquoise.
HANSEL: That was fun! This is life and death!
GRETEL: True. Okay, what do you think we should do?
HANSEL: Trust me. It will make sense.
(All freeze, except for JACOB and WILHELM.)
JACOB: The question is: Will it work?
WILHELM: We shall soon see… Where were we?
JACOB: The forest.
WIFE: You look tired, children. Why don't you lay here and sleep? Your father and I will be back soon.
HANSEL: Yes, mother.
(WOODCUTTER and WIFE exit.)
HANSEL: And now we follow the pebbles home.
GRETEL: You used breadcrumbs, Hansel.
HANSEL: No, I didn't. Did I really?
(JACOB, who conveniently has a script handy, looks through it.)
JACOB: Did we really skip the pebble part when we wrote the script?
WILHELM: What's done is done, Jacob. Hansel: please continue.
HANSEL: Okay… We'll follow the breadcrumbs home!
GRETEL: You know, that might actually work. If the birds hadn't eaten them!
HANSEL: It might have been wolves.
GRETEL: (Horrified) Wolves!?
HANSEL: Remember your friend Red Riding Hood?
GRETEL: They never found her.
HANSEL: Now we know why. (Pause.) Now, let's try to find a way home.
(Both exit as a candy house is brought onstage.)
JACOB: The children walked through the woods for three days, during which they began to hunger and thirst, and they fought a bear and –
WILHELM: A bear fight!?
WILHELM: There was no bear fight in the story.
JACOB: (Waving the script) I'm sure these people can appreciate some artistic license.
WILHELM: (Sternly) No bear fight.
JACOB: Okay…no bear fight…
WILHELM: Skip to the candy house.
JACOB: Very well. The candy house. After three days of walking, Hansel and Gretel came upon a house made of candy.
GRETEL: Look, Hansel! A house made of candy!
HANSEL: Sustenance! We're saved!
WILHELM: He is a young boy. He wouldn't know that word.
JACOB: You denied me the bear fight.
WILHELM: Fair enough.
HANSEL: Sustenance! We're saved.
(Both begin gnawing on the house.)
WITCH: Nibble nibble, little mouse. Who's that nibbling on my house?
GRETEL: Did you hear something?
(The WITCH exits the house with a broom and starts waving it.)
WITCH: Filthy rats! Go away! (Realizes that HANSEL and GRETEL are not, in fact, rats.) Oh, forgive me. I'm just an old lady.
GRETEL: It's all right.
WITCH: You look tired. Please come in. (HANSEL and GRETEL exit.) Why don't you stay for dinner? (Cackles and exits.)
WILHELM: Well, you remembered the witch.
JACOB: Ha. You're funny.
(HANSEL, GRETEL, and WITCH enter.)
WITCH: You, boy, get in the cage.
WITCH: Cage. Now.
(HANSEL enters the cage that has been conveniently placed on the other side of the stage.)
GRETEL: What are you going to do?
WITCH: Eat him.
GRETEL: You can't do that!
WITCH: Try me, you cheeky little twit. Come on. I was a prizefighter in my younger days. (Pause.) Now, you, my dear, are going to help me cook him.
GRETEL: I don't know how to cook.
WITCH: You're not jesting?
GRETEL: No. Why would I do that?
WITCH: Fine, I'll show you. (Leans offstage.) Open the oven, look in to see if it's hot enough, and (GRETEL pushes her offstage, WITCH screams.)
HANSEL: Wonderful! Bravo!
GRETEL: Thank you. Now, let's you out of here. (She unlocks the cage and HANSEL is free. Enter WOODCUTTER.)
WOODCUTTER: Hansel! Gretel!
HANSEL: Where is Mother?
WOODCUTTER: Who cares? She disappeared mysteriously in the forest, and here I find you. Life is good!
GRETEL: So optimistic.
WOODCUTTER: Oh, by the way, I found a bunch of treasure around the back. Will you help me take it home?
HANSEL and GRETEL: We're rich!
(All three exit.)
JACOB: And they all lived happily ever after.
WILHELM: What? No they didn't!
JACOB: What do you mean, no they didn't?
WILHELM: The witch died, and the mother disappeared. So only three of the five lived happily ever after.
JACOB: This is a fairy tale, Wilhelm.
WILHELM: Jacob, my dear deluded brother, let me explain a little something to you.