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Review: For John C. Reilly, it's time to ‘Gather’ at Pasadena Playhouse

Review: For John C. Reilly, it's time to ‘Gather’ at Pasadena Playhouse
John C. Reilly and Mary Grill in "Gather: Surprising Stories & Other Mischief" at Pasadena Playhouse. (Nick Agro / Pasadena Playhouse)

When the Greek goddess Eos asked the gods to grant her mortal lover Tithonus eternal life, she neglected to add a necessary codicil to the celestial contract — that he have eternal youth as well.

The outcome, needless to say, wasn’t pretty. That’s the hitch with fairy tales: Be careful what you wish for, or you just may end up with a sausage stuck on your nose or the reanimated corpse of your mutilated son lurching up the path for a reunion.

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“Gather: Surprising Stories & Other Mischief,” now at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre, the second-floor space at Pasadena Playhouse, is a lively and overdue homage to “Paul Sills’ Story Theatre,” the 1970 show based on Grimm and Aesop. “Gather” co-creators John C. Reilly and Patrick Murphy (who also directs) sample freely from a variety of eclectic fairy and folk sources, including a sanguinary take on the Bluebeard tale and a comical yarn from rural West Virginia. Plenty of toe-tapping music is interspersed throughout the comedy and gore. (Parents with young kids, take heart: Family-friendly Sunday matinees lighten up on the butchery and double down on the whimsy.)

The music — pieces from the Great American Songbook and more far-flung selections — get essential accompaniment from Logan Hone on a variety of instruments assisted by the cast members, who also pitch in as Foley artists. They augment the sound effects in Jared A. Sayeg’s minimalist production design, which features quirky costumes by Ann Closs Farley.

The excellent cast includes Alicia Adams, Larry Bates, Michael Dunn, Amie Farrell, Mary Grill, Max Kleinman, Christopher Schultz and Madeline Wager. Tony and Oscar nominee Reilly may have the name value, but it should be noted that he doesn’t steal focus; throughout the show, he’s just another part of this winning ensemble. It's a refreshing exercise in artistic generosity.

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‘Gather: Surprising Stories & Other Mischief’

Where: Carrie Hamilton Theatre at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through June 22 (dark June 8).

Tickets: $45-$55

Info: (626) 356-7529, PasadenaPlayhouse.org

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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