Former Raleigh resident Joe Brack achieves a weird sort of alchemy with his one-man show My Princess Bride, now running at Common Ground Theatre. Yes, it's one man recapping the plot of The Princess Bride film, with occasional references to William Goldman's original novel and anecdotes from his own life. But Brack knows a secret: When a movie's good enough, and when one has seen that movie enough times, he or she can re-create its magic through sheer enthusiasm.
And enthusiasm is something Brack has in spades, working himself into a sweat over 90 caffeinated minutes with the aid of a few props and his own encyclopedic knowledge of the film. Hunched over, he does an uncanny impression of Wallace Shawn as the Sicilian Vizzini; shoulder arched, and he's the "Spanish-named, Italian-sounding Jewish swordsman" Inigo Montoya.
Throughout this show, directed by Matty Griffiths, Brack also brings in elements of his own life, speaking of dealings with school embarrassments, his own struggles with Crohn's disease and family issues ranging from the death of a beloved grandmother to getting beaten up by his three younger sisters as a kid. It's these moments of despair, sometimes small in retrospect, sometimes still fresh, that remind us why The Princess Bride is so compelling not only to Brack but to generations of viewers: There's something about a simple, humorous adventure story where the tenants of true love and loyalty are seen as the highest ideals that can remind you the world is a place with magic and possibility—even if, in Brack's case, you're an adolescent who's just lost control of your bowels in front of a crush. There are times when some people need fairy tales more than others.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Can we talk?"