11/29/2008

An Evening at the Theater - A Review

The caption under the beautiful color picture of actress Casie Platt in the Washington Post read, " Gather Round for Story Time and Leave the Little Ones at Home." Inviting, Intriguing. Yes!

The article goes on:
" This week-end, the two-for-one musical, Cautionary Tales for Adults and the Many Adventures of Trixie Tickles" a highlight of the 2007 Capital Fringe Festival, is reprised at Round House Theatre. If you're looking for an antidote to crass commercialism and faked joy, you'll find it in this $15 show."

What's not to love? We went. It turned out there was a lot not to love.

The cast of five was energetic, engaging and very talented. Casie Platt, the featured player as the librarian in the Cautionary Tales and as Trixie Tickles in the second play, gave a fine performance, creating each role as a very distinct character. Her rendition of a five year old temper tantrum was right on even as it was like fingernails on a blackboard for any parent or teacher that's endured through those.

The blurbs about the plays say the writer took his inspiration from Edward Gorey's "Cautionary Tales for Children" and that may have been when things started to go off track. English satirist Hillaire Belloc wrote the Cautionary Tales - American artist Edward Gorey illustrated an edition of the tales with his distinctive black and white, often eerie, drawings. The book jacket for that edition describes Belloc's tales as "witty, brilliant, and strikingly irreverent."

Author Shawn Northrip did not achieve that in his writing for this work. The audience was not well led into the frame that they were grown-ups as kids for these tales. Attempts at audience participation fell flat because the clueless audience held back and the cast had to work hard to bring them in.

Laughs came not from "witty" but from language - foul language seems to be the way to tickle our funny bones these days. The writer's tales were plenty irreverent - infact one tale took irreverent to a low point when the joke revolved around Trixie Tickles being lured away by a clownish child molester.

I am sure the two plays went off well with more forgiving fringe audiences but IMHO the material has not been honed yet for a prime time stage. Where was the "moment of reflection" to add depth or give a pause to absorb the "message" if there was one. I am not talking about a preaching or teaching moment - I am talking about a moment for the audience to have a satisfying "take-away" - from an hour and a half and $15.

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