The Princess in Disguise
As Told by the Brothers Grimm
(Lights up and enter JACOB GRIMM and WILHELM GRIMM from opposite sides of the stage, meeting at Center and facing each other. Rapid-fire dialog.)
JACOB: Hello, Wilhelm.
WILHELM: Guten tag, Jacob.
JACOB: Ah, using a bit of the old German, I see.
WILHELM: That I am, brother. That I am.
JACOB: Quite clever of you.
WILHELM: Why thank you.
JACOB: You're welcome.
WILHELM: Are we quite done with introductions now?
JACOB: Yes, I think so.
(Both simultaneously turn and face the audience.)
WILHELM: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the Theatre of the Grim.
JACOB: Was that a pun on our name?
WILHELM: Yes. Why? Did you not like it?
JACOB: Oh no. It was clever. I just don't know if you could make a career out of it.
WILHELM: Ah, well. Ladies and gentlemen, today we bring you a play that…well…
JACOB: A play that was not the one we performed for you last year.
WILHELM: Well, that, but this one is… What's the word?
WILHLEM: Thank you. Obscure.
(As they speak, the scene is set up behind them. There is KING WALLACE, QUEEN VANITY, who is dying, and a guard, PROMETHEUS.)
JACOB: You see, this play is called "The Princess in Disguise." Most likely, it is a title that you have not heard before.
WILHELM: As opposed to "Hansel and Gretel."
JACOB: So, shall we begin?
WILHELM: There once was a king whose wife was dying.
VANITY: Wallace…darling…come closer… (WALLACE does so and she coughs in his face.) Wallace, I am dying…and I know you will marry again, but do not marry anyone who is not as beautiful as I am.
PROMETHEUS: Did I mention that the Queen's name is Vanity?
WILHELM: That wasn't in the story.
JACOB: I wrote it into the script, as a joke.
WILHELM: I do not understand.
PROMETHEUS: Queen, if you would repeat that last line?
VANITY: Wallace, I am dying…and I know you will marry again, but do not marry anyone who is not as beautiful as I am.
WILHELM: Oh! I get it! Clever.
WALLACE: I promise.
(VANITY dies, rather melodramatically.)
PROMETHEUS: Jeez, wasn't it just a cough or something?
(VANITY sits up.)
VANITY: This is theatre. Just go with it.
(She dies again, with the same amount of melodrama.)
WALLACE: Take her to the chapel, Prometheus.
PROMETHEUS: Yes, your Highness.
(PROMETHEUS picks up VANITY and slings her over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. He exits Stage Right with her.)
(CUMMBERBUND, another servant, enters Stage Left.)
CUMMERBUND: Aye, sir! What can I do for you, sir?
WALLACE: We are going to find me a new wife.
CUMMBERBUND: It's a bit early, wouldn't you say?
WALLACE: Never too early for smiles on a sad day.
CUMMERBUND: I like your thinking, sir. I'll bring in the ladies.
WALLACE: They're already here? I didn't send out invitations.
VANITY: (From Offstage) It's theatre! Just go with it!
CUMMERBUND: Isn't she dead?
CUMMERBUND: Then why is she talking?
WALLACE: She's not.
CUMMERBUND: Yes she is.
WALLACE: No she isn't.
CUMMERBUND: She's still alive!
WALLACE: Yes she is.
CUMMERBUND: No she isn't!
WALLACE: Aha! Got you.
CUMMERBUND: I'll fetch the ladies.
(He exits Stage Left.)
WALLACE: Just send them in one at a time.
(From Stage Left, enter four WOMEN, all shapes and sizes. As WALLACE criticizes each one, she leaves.)
WALLACE: Too short, too muscular, too old, too… too…
WOMAN: Too what? Too beautiful?
WALLACE: Too… I can't think of anything. Too confusing.
(The WOMAN exits and CUMMERBUND, PROMETHEUS, and PRINCESS ARYA enter from Stage Right. ARYA is played by the same actress as VANITY. She lays a hand on WALLACE'S shoulder while CUMMERBUND and PROMETHEUS look on.)
ARYA: How goes the wife hunt, Father?
WALLACE: Not well, Arya, darling. Not well. I just can't seem to find a… (He notices that ARYA looks just like VANITY.) Say…you look just like your mother… I want you to marry me.
ARYA: (Shocked) What?
CUMMERBUND: Come on now, sir. What is this, Sweeney Todd? (He begins eyeing PROMETHEUS creepily and sings.) "Johanna, Johanna, I'll wed you on the morrow…"
PROMETHEUS: Oh, be quiet, Cummerbund.
WALLACE: I am quite serious. Marry me, Arya.
ARYA: Well, I suppose I have no choice. But before I agree, I want you to find four things for me.
ARYA: First, a dress as gold as the sun.
CUMMERBUND: Sun's yellow.
ARYA: Second, a dress as silver as the moon.
CUMMERBUND: Moon's made of cheese.
PROMETHEUS: Will you shut it?
ARYA: Third, a dress that glitters like the stars.
CUMMERBUND: Got nothing on that one.
WALLACE: And the fourth item?
ARYA: A fur coat, that every wild animal in the kingdom must donate skin to.
WALLACE: It shall be done.
PROMETHEUS: Shall I set the kingdom to work, Highness?
WALLACE: Thank you, Prometheus.
(PROMETHEUS exits Stage Right.)
CUMMERBUND: And what can I do for you, sir?
WALLACE: Arrange the wedding, Cummerbund.
(WALLACE follows PROMETHEUS, leaving ARYA and CUMMERBUND alone.)
CUMMERBUND: May I ask why you requested those items, ma'am?
ARYA: Because he'll never be able to get them, and I won't have to marry him.
(CUMMERBUND exits Stage Right.)
JACOB: But, by some strange twist that we call the source material (he holds up his book), the king was able to.
(WALLACE enters with the three dresses and the fur coat.)
WALLACE: We'll be married tomorrow, Arya. Good night.
(He exits again, leaving her the dresses and the coat.)
ARYA: All right, boys, what do I do now?
WILHELM: In the story, you fold the dresses and tuck them away in walnut shells. You take the walnut juice and make yourself look dirty and use the fur coat to disguise yourself as a peasant.
ARYA: Right. I'll go do that.
(She exits Stage Left, leaving JACOB and WILHELM alone.)
WILHELM: While she does that, I think that you and I need to do some catching up, Jacob.
JACOB: I agree.
WILHELM: What have you been up to since we last performed here?
JACOB: Well, uh… I, uh, I found a girlfriend…
WILHELM: Really now? Is she cute?
JACOB: The cutest.
WILHELM: What's her name?
JACOB: I don't want to share that.
WILHELM: (Playful) Come on, Jacob. You think I'll laugh?
JACOB: Not at all.
(At this point, KING MERVIN and his two HUNTERS should be finished setting up their camp behind them. Also, ARYA, dressed as a peasant, lies asleep nearby.)
WILHELM: Is her name Bertha?
WILHELM: What is it?
(Horses whinny and everyone stares at JACOB.)
JACOB: Let's continue, shall we?
MERVIN: Not much luck today, I fear.
HUNTER #1: Indeed. Ever since Wallace across the river started killing all the animals…
(HUNTER #2 notices ARYA.)
HUNTER #2: My liege, what is this?
MERVIN: My dear hunter, I believe it is a squirrel.
HUNTER #2: A squirrel, sir?
MERVIN: A squirrel, sir.
HUNTER #2: And how, sir, is that, sir, a squirrel, sir?
MERVIN: Well…it's furry.
HUNTER #2: It's huge!
HUNTER #1: It must be a rabid squirrel, sir. See? Its tail is missing.
MERVIN: It's moving…
(ARYA stirs, but is not awake.)
HUNTER #1: I say we tie it up and bring it home for a public display.
MERVIN: Make it so.
(As the two HUNTERS tie her up, ARYA wakes up and realizes what is happening.)
ARYA: No! Don't hurt me!
HUNTER #2: Did the squirrel speak?
ARYA: No, I'm human!
HUNTER #1: It's a witch! Burn her!
MERVIN: I will be the judge of that. (He strides toward ARYA.) What is your name?
ARYA: Please, sir. They call me Roughskin, and I am but a peasant.
MERVIN: Perhaps I may have some use for you at my palace. Tell me, do you cook?
ARYA: When I can.
MERVIN: Good. Come with us, then. You shall assist my head cook.
ARYA: Thank you, sir! And what may I call you?
MERVIN: I am King Mervin of The Kingdom Across the River.
ARYA: And what is the name of this country?
MERVIN: …The Kingdom Across the River… The chap who wrote this play did not want to choose an actual place, for political correctness.
ARYA: Very well, then.
(They exit Stage Left. The scene is replaced by the King's Ball. Several people are already present when MERVIN and his head chef RABBLEROUSE enter from Stage Left.)
MERVIN: And how has little Roughskin been working these past few weeks, Rabblerouse?
RABBLEROUSE: I cannot be complaining, your Highness. She works to please.
MERVIN: Good, good.
(An OLD WOMAN comes storming through the crowd, giggling.)
OLD WOMAN: I am part ghost and part roast, therefore I consist of food and spirits. (She laughs again and runs away.)
RABBLEROUSE: Pay no attention to her, Highness. That's just my Aunt Pubescence. She is slightly insane, you know. Quite uncontrollable.
MERVIN: You should meet my cousin Aroma. Stinks up the place like no other.
RABBLEROUSE: Sir… (He indicates ARYA, who has just entered in her gold dress, utterly unrecognizable.)
MERVIN: (In love) Oh my…
JACOB: And…speed through.
(Everything happens about five times faster than normal. MERVIN and ARYA dance, they part, RABBLEROUSE brings him soup, and he spits out a ring. RABBLEROUSE exits angrily with the soup bowl. ARYA comes back in the silver dress, repeat the soup thing again up until MERVIN spits out the ring. Return to normal speed.)
MERVIN: Suspicious, says I. (ARYA returns in the glittery dress, and they dance. MERVIN sneaks the ring onto her finger, but the audience can see it. ARYA exits.) Suspicious indeed…
(ARYA returns as Roughskin with RABBLEROUSE a few moments later.)
RABBLEROUSE: She is making your soup, sir.
MERVIN: Hold up your hand. (ARYA holds up the hand without the ring.) The other one. (ARYA holds up the other hand and sees the ring. MERVIN takes off her coat to reveal the dress underneath.) Will you marry me?
ARYA: You aren't going to creep on me, are you?
MERVIN: Certainly not. Why do you ask?
JACOB: And so, Arya told Mervin her story, of how she escaped her father and came to be in his service.
WILHELM: And they lived happily ever after.
JACOB: Did you really just say what I think you said?
WILHELM: Why, yes.
JACOB: There may be hope for you yet, Wilhelm.
WILHELM: Note that I did not say they ALL lived happily ev…
JACOB: I get the point.