More than a dozen familiar fairy-tale characters enter unfamiliar territory when their stories intersect in a dark forest over the course of three nights.
The fate of these disparate—and discontented—people was determined a generation earlier when a young baker tried to quell the cravings of his pregnant wife by sneaking into the garden of a neighboring witch and stealing her green vegetables. As punishment, the witch kidnapped their newborn baby girl (named Rapunzel) and locked her away in a tower. To insure no further thievery, the witch placed a curse on the baker’s only son, ensuring that his family tree would be barren.
The action of the play begins when the witch returns to tell the son, now grown and a baker himself, that he can undo the spell and conceive a child with his wife if he retrieves the following items by the stroke of midnight three days hence:
One: the cow as white as milk
Two: the cape as red as blood
Three: the hair as yellow as corn
Four: the slipper as pure as gold
The baker ventures into the woods with the unwanted assistance of his resourceful wife, armed only with six beans he believes his father may have stolen from the witch’s garden. Eventually, the couple fulfill their quest by duping a lad out of his cow in exchange for their “magic” beans, struggling to get a cape off a girl trying to bring a basket of goodies to her grandmother, cutting off the long hair of a girl locked in a tower and stealing the shoe off the foot of a maiden fleeing a prince after a ball. The expected fairy-tale endings of Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Cinderella occur with everyone, including the baker and his wife, living happily ever after.
But that’s not the end of this story. In the second act, the consequences of the characters’ actions play out, most crucially the vengeance of a widowed giantess determined to find the larcenous lad who climbed a beanstalk, then chopped it down, killing her husband. However, with the convoluted machinations that led to that calamity, no one is free of blame. And no one but the witch wants to sacrifice the simple-minded Jack. Together they must figure out how to restore peace to the land—without magic.