It was pointed out to us that the seating at Exit Theater down in the Tenderloin is reminiscent of one of those Medieval Times restaurants, where suburban crowds are treated to Applebee’s quality dishes while being entertained by jousting, juggling, and bawdy wenches of “olde.” Never having indulged in one of these places (it’s on the list), this writer simply had to take the observer’s word for it. However, considering the play we were watching in preview, it was an interesting observation. Based on Oakland writer Peter S. Beagle's 1997 collection of short stories of the same name, Giant Bones, the latest work by prolific local playwright/director Stuart Bousel, weaves together four tales set in a medieval-like fantasy world of remarkable depth and texture.
Giant Bones tells the story of an acting troupe that once enjoyed royal patronage but at the time in which the play is set has been reduced to traveling the countryside to entertain the masses. The first act, a whopping hour and 15 minutes, has the acting troupe producing three tales about people kept in situations against their will: a myth on the fate of the last of the giants as told by their human pet; a fable about the defeat of an evil queen at the hands of a humble country wizard whose magic she seeks to capture; and the story of a young woman who seeks aid from a fish in escaping the forced affections of the king of whom she is a “guest.” The first act makes highly effective use of minimal props and clever puppetry to tell three very entertaining stories.