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Precious Time

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The duke is so evil, his hands are cold " as cold as his heart. He wears gloves when he's asleep and when he's awake. This keeps his hands warm, but also means he never actually touches anyone.

His sweet young niece, by contrast, has warm hands and a melodious name: Saralinda. Naturally, the princess has many suitors, but the duke sets these beaus to impossible tasks so they will fail and give up their courtship " if he doesn't run them through first on one pretext or another. Many a suitor's corpse has been fed to the geese.

This is the basic situation in James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks which recently received a rousing revival at the Alamo Underground (1547 Crete St., Suite 1, 481-4091). Gabrielle Reisman adapted the tale and directed the show. It's curious to note that Clocks, though fallen into obscurity, achieved its 15 minutes of fame when it came out in the '50s. Basil Rathbone, Lauren Bacall and Peter Ustinov, among others, were tapped for stage or audio versions. The story even made it onto television as a musical drama in 1953.

Of course, the valiant little Alamo Underground is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of glamour. Reisman's production was simply a tribute to one of her favorite children's books. The physical spareness of the Alamo suggests more of a castle dungeon than a Disney palace. The hallucinatory nature of the tale lends itself to free-flowing imaginative involvement rather than brief, flashy effects, but Reisman did throw in a few hilarious visual surprises to brighten up the duke's gloomy domain.

Setting out to write a synopsis of Clocks is somewhat like a trying to map the Minoan Labyrinth. Not that the story is purposefully complicated, but Thurber, who wrote the piece as an escape from a novel he was supposed to be writing, enjoyed a fairy tale's freedom. He didn't tie up all the loose ends with logic. For instance, why the 13 clocks? Lord knows. But, there are 13 clocks in the duke's castle. They all froze at 10 minutes to five on a snowy night seven years ago. The duke claims to have murdered time, slain it with his sword. At various moments, he mentions the blood stains of minutes and seconds that still soil his sleeves. One of the tasks he sets for aspiring princes is to reanimate the clocks.

He assigns that task to Xingu (pronounced Zingu), who presents himself as a minstrel. Actually, he is the youngest son of the powerful king of Zorn. Xingu is determined to win the hand of Saralinda, and to do so, the duke also says he must return with 1,000 jewels in nine and 90 hours. A creature called the Golux (Mandi Turner) volunteers to help Xingu. The Golux, as his name implies, is no ordinary being. He is the son of a witch and a wizard, but he is as wacky as he is well-meaning.

Off the two adventurers go in search of the jewels that they hope to get from Hagga (Morrey McElroy), a woman who weeps jewels instead of tears. The only trouble is that she has long since stopped weeping. Now she only cries tears of joy and these jewels, unfortunately, turn back to tears in a fortnight. This was one of the hotshot effects that brought down the house.

Hagga, it turns out, was given the gift of weeping jewels by the magical king Gawain when she saved him from a wolf trap. It also turns out that King Gawain is Saralinda's father, and she is not actually the duke's niece. The evil duke intended to keep the maiden for himself once she reached adulthood.

After some twists and turns, the fairy tale safely anchors at its destination of Happily Ever After " for the young lovers that is. The evil duke meets the horrible end he deserves, most likely at the hands of the Todal " a 'gleeping" monster that 'glups" evildoers.

The cast threw themselves into this baroque balderdash with great brio. Kevin Fricke gave the icy-blooded villain a psychopathic intensity that certainly cast a shadow of doom over the charming Saralinda (Kate Labouisse) and Xingu (Eli Grove). Keep an eye out for events at the Alamo Underground. It's got an adventurous, no-frills approach that's got its own rags to riches fairy-tale appeal.

Wonk The magical and mischievious Golux (Mandi Turner) helps a young suitor complete a task in pursuit of Saralinda.
  • Wonk The magical and mischievious Golux (Mandi Turner) helps a young suitor complete a task in pursuit of Saralinda.

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