Man in green with cocktail strainers over his eyes on left, woman with cat ears on right
"The Fisherman and His Wife" from Theatre Above the Law's Grimm. Credit: Tyler Core

If Cheers and Into the Woods got together for an unprotected hookup, the end result might be a bit like Michael Dalberg’s Grimm, now in a world premiere with Theatre Above the Law under Josephine Czarnecki’s direction. The conceit is that the characters from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales (Little Red, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, etc.) have taken shelter in a cabaret bar where Jakob Grimm (Maxwell Peters) keeps showing up, seeking his lost brother Wilhelm. By reenacting the stories, the characters hope to clue Jakob into what he’s really looking for. “The only way out is through,” warns Little Red (Delilah Rose Lane), who is all grown up, but disturbingly still looks like a child.

Grimm
Through 10/31: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, theatreatl.org, $23 ($20 students/seniors/industry).

It’s not a bad premise, and there are plenty of moments of sly wit in Czarnecki’s production, along with clever low-budget costumes by Jessie Gowens. (I particularly admired the gold-painted cocktail strainers used to represent the bulging eyes of the enchanted prince-fish in “The Fisherman and His Wife.”) The seven-member cast commits with energy, and leans into the darkness of the stories with relish (particularly in what we’re told is an uncollected Grimm tale about a butcher’s family who come to a, er, grim end).

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine tossed Bruno Bettelheim’s Freudian The Uses of Enchantment in the ring with Carl Jung in Into the Woods. Dalberg seems to be striving for something akin to that battle over our unconscious attachment to these stories, but Grimm doesn’t quite succeed at moving beyond a faithful story theater approach to the tales.