“The Princess Bride” is a bit like the elusive pot of gold. The love story also is a comedy, albeit one with swashbuckling, screaming eels and beastly Rodents of Unusual Size. The fairy-tale adventure book, which spawned a 1987 film, has the kind of intergenerational and cross-gender appeal that makes movie producers swoon. It’s no wonder Joe Brack’s one-man show “My Princess Bride” was such a success at this summer’s Fringe Festival, and he’s remounting it this month. The play weaves together reenactments from the novel and movie with tales from Brack’s own life.
But if writing his first play, impersonating Inigo Montoya’s Spanish accent and choreographing solo sword fights weren’t hard enough, Brack had another daunting task. Matty Griffiths, Brack’s frequent collaborator and the person he wanted to direct the show, was one of the few people who wouldn’t think of a Sicilian swindler upon hearing the word “inconceivable.”
“What’s ‘The Princess Bride?’ ” Brack recalls Griffiths asking. “And my jaw just dropped.”
It was a rather large hurdle. Brack is the ideas guy, but Griffiths gets things done. For example, when the pair staged “Santaland Diaries,” which they have done the past four years, they wanted the set to look like the loading dock at Macy’s. It was Griffiths who found tires and a dumpster to roll onstage.
After reading the book and watching “The Princess Bride,” Griffiths was a convert and immediately got down to business. First he had Brack rewrite the script; then he looked for a venue. Brack, who had performed at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, mentioned in passing that he’d like to stage “My Princess Bride” at Washington’s Fringe.
“And Matty said, ‘Yeah, let’s shoot for Fringe,’ ” Brack recalls. “And I meant in the future, but then Matty came back and said, ‘We’re in for Fringe!’ And I was like, ‘What? Fringe is in two months,’ and he said, ‘I know! We’re in, I got us a venue.’ ”
Brack’s “My Princess Bride” isn’t all fairy tale. There are plenty of anecdotes from his life, and he even affects his old South Boston accent as narrator.
“It’s a beautiful blend with all these themes, but it really starts out from a place of love,” Griffiths says. “It’s just Joe’s love of the book and film and what it’s done for him. All that comes through.”
Then again, Brack doesn’t skimp on the assured crowd-pleasers. The audience might feel the heat of the fire swamp; they’ll also hear Brack’s impressive Andre the Giant impersonation. And even though it’s a one-man show, Brack benefits from what Griffiths calls “the other character” — sound design by longtime friend Chris Blaine.
“I called [Blaine] and said, ‘I don’t know if you’re busy’ — he had just won the Helen Hayes [Award] at that point — so I was like, ‘I’m sure no one else is asking you to do anything,’ ” Brack says with a laugh, “ ‘but we’re doing a one-man ‘Princess Bride,’ and as soon as I said ‘Princess Bride,’ he said, ‘I’m in.’ ”
Such is the power of the title. And although Griffiths came to it a little later than some, he has an excuse.
“In my own defense, I think I realized in the last year that I was being told about this movie for probably a decade, but I thought they were saying ‘The Princess Diaries,’ ” Griffiths says. “So I thought these people who were telling me this is the best movie ever were crazy.”
For his part, Brack thinks a one-man show impersonating Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway sounds kind of hilarious. Griffiths could probably make it happen.
Thursday through Dec. 22. The Shop at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW. www.cityartisticpartnerships.org. $20.