120508quad.jpgKen Stein/Running With Scissors Photography.

If Joseph Campbell ever got really baked and told his grandchildren a meandering bedtime story, it might have sounded something like The Granduncle Quadrilogy, a whimsical four part fairytale "from the Land of Ice," presented by Piper McKenzie at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg. Playwright Jeff Lewoncyzk's idiosyncratic fable centers on a bungling hero, the titular Granduncle, and his kooky misadventures in an imaginary arctic land where war is everlasting and it's so damn cold everyone looks forward to death, when they can finally join their messiah in heaven. (Which is under the ice.)

Produced on a shoestring, the minimalist set proves you don't need much to evoke an alternate reality in the theater. With just a white backdrop suggesting a desolate snow-blind north country, and Julianne Kroboth's elaborately funky costumes of pelts and feathers, director Hope Cartelli transports the audience deep into the tundra, where the ensemble unfolds stories of war, forced labor, and love during the annual seven day spring. It's a world where bored schoolkids violate the unpopular girl with a mammoth trunk, which doesn't sound like a very funny prank, but it is.

Each of the play's four parts is presented as an oral history of the Granduncle's life, as told from his deathbed to a group of restless children. Richard Harrington plays the part with monotonous detachment, and it's not quite clear if his flat performance is intended ironically. In the end, there's considerable relief when he expires, for "never again will he weave long-winded stories that scare the children." Alternately amusing and vague, the quadrilogy itself is rather long-winded; at times the whimsy wears thin and the momentum freezes up. But there's an endearing 'let's put on a play' charm at work here, and the rest of the ensemble is skilled enough to keep breaking the ice.