“A Wrinkle in Time” is a Fantastical Time!

Don’t judge me, but I have never read “A Wrinkle in Time”. So, I walked into the Childsplay production of “A Wrinkle in Time” completely unspoiled, with no idea what to expect. And I was blown away.

We walked into the theatre, and were immediately entranced by the elaborate set; what appeared to be a floating bed framed by a slanted window. Hmmmm…what did this mean? Would the bed be used to go through time? Does the wrinkle refer to crumpled bed sheets? Color me intrigued. The entire stage was framed by a chalkboard covered with mathematical equations.

The play starts, and I am transported. I immediately care about the characters in the story, as their personalities are fleshed out for us by various narrators who become characters in the story as well. I feel their worry, fear and anxiety. I am entranced by the odd neighbor, and when the children visit her haunted house in the woods, I get goose bumps.

I don’t want to give away the wonderful adventure this play takes us on; I was on the edge of my seat the entire time because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was assured by another patron who had read the book, that it was true to its source material, yet she too was on the edge of her seat.

The effects in this production were incredible. When the characters travel through time, I travelled with them; I felt breathless, lost and off balance. The creatures we met are creepy and chilling; at one point I found myself so mesmerized that I thought I too would succumb to the mind control of IT. Long, endless hallways were truly long (how do they do that?). When the characters flew to the top of a mountain, I could feel the lack of oxygen, and the elevator ride left me slightly off kilter.

Of course, the effects would fall flat if the actors didn’t sell them so completely. When Meg was battling IT, I could almost see the irresistible force pulling her. Yet, this is a live action play, not a movie with CGI, so the force pulling her was the actor being amazing. Seriously, how did she do that?

The set in this production was detailed yet stark at the same time. Screens and silhouettes are used to create images and feelings. When the characters were at the top of the mountain, I truly was there with them, with the set amplifying a feeling of height and emptiness rather than showing us an elaborately detailed mountain. The sets moved seamlessly throughout, their motion never taking you out of the play, but being incorporated into the story itself.

Six actors play the many roles in the play, including the narration. The narration is seamless and is incorporated into the action of the play, so the momentum of the story is never interrupted by exposition.

This play would be appreciated by children approaching those troublesome and scary teenage years. A main focus of the play was being different, and how being different effects the perception of those around you. We also saw how everyone being exactly alike is bone-chillingly scary and freaky. I loved how being unique is celebrated; being different is what saves the day.

I loved this play. It made me think, and, maybe more importantly, it made my children think as well. The questions for the ride home (which we always do) sparked a lively discussion about conformity. When is it important to fit in and not be different? Is it important, or should you always be true to yourself? Is it easier to be true to yourself the older you get?

Go see this play. It is masterfully presented with relevant themes that will resonate long after you leave the theatre.

“A Wrinkle in Time” runs through May 26. Tickets are available here.

Childsplay has announced its 2013 – 2014 season. I can’t wait!

“Click Clack Moo” Raving Review!!

In their production of  “Click Clack Moo”, Childsplay once again does what they do best, addressed themes that are important to young children like conflict resolution, problem solving and boredom  in an entertaining, engaging and oh so fun way.

“Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type”  by Doreen Cronin is a silly, wonderful  book about cows and hens who are cold, and how they negotiate with the farmer to acquire electric blankets to keep themselves warm. The book is fun, interactive, with great illustrations that takes maybe, 10 minutes to read out loud. 20 minutes if you act it out. So, how did Childsplay take a delightful, yet quite short, children’s story and make it into a 60 minute production?

This is a question I ask myself every time I see a Childsplay adaptation of a beloved children’s story. “Runaway Bunny” and “Goodnight Moon” are two of my all time favorite Childsplay productions, so I was beside myself excited to see what ingenious things they would inject into “Click Clack Moo” to create a full length play.

I was not disappointed. My favorite addition was Duck, who in the book is a “neutral party”, but in the play was boooooorrrreeeed. I loved this, because what child doesn’t sometimes get boorrreed? Duck, who was bored, figured out not only how to solve his problem, but made himself some new friends in the meantime. I also loved Duck’s imagination. Imagination, unfortunately, is becoming somewhat of a lost art, and to see Duck carry out his pond, then swim in it, made me smile.

I also got a kick out of how the cows had to figure out that Farmer Brown couldn’t speak Moo. When I presented this book to my preschool class, they had the best time imagining what the language of “Moo” might sound like – I loved it that this was addressed in the play.

The cows, in the play, had more than just one problem they needed to solve. Not only were they cold, but they needed to figure out how to communicate that problem to Farmer Brown in a way that he could understand. The trial and error that the cows and the hen went through until they finally happened upon the typewriter had the entire audience rolling.

As usual, the music in this production was amazing. There is nothing like good harmonies in songs about cows going on strike or boring duck ponds to make you feel good and want to get up and dance.

The costumes were to die for. My girls loved Hen’s costume the best; I loved the Cows’. Somehow maid uniforms in a cow print with a cute little maid hat and awesome black and white saddle shoes were exactly how a cow would dress, if she were to wear people clothes.

While this play is based on a preschool picture book, and is designed for ages 3 and up, there is plenty of humor aimed right at the grown-ups in the audience. My kids are tweens and teens, and they were rolling, as was I with the subtle asides directed specifically at the older members of the audience.

I loved the simple yet effective set as well. I so appreciate a simple set; especially in a production aimed at the preschool set. As I stated earlier, imagination is becoming a lost art. With toys that are sometimes so realistic that no imagination is required as well as the abundance video games and aps, I dig seeing a skeleton of a barn standing in for the real thing. Or seeing Hen getting stuck in a completely imaginary box (I think that was my favorite part…I am still giggling about that as I type this). Small children need to see imagination at work, and realize that they can use their imagination to create things that are not actually there on their own.

I should also note that Childsplay does a terrific job of extending the play in their 360 degree theatre experience. In the lobby, before and after the play they have activities set up that expand on the themes of the play. For “Click Clack Moo”, audience members get to experience the joys of typing on a real typewriter. My niece tried it out; her reaction? “This is RIDICULOUS! People actually typed on these? How did anything ever get written?” We also enjoyed the questions for the ride home. We enjoy rehashing the experience as we debate the questions Childsplay has given us to think about.

Go see this play. It is worth every penny, and it is an event the entire family will enjoy. My kids and I are still discussing it and giggling about it a week later. It was that good.

“The Giver” Gives Us a Lot to Ponder

This weekend I got to see “The Giver”. And now I am faced with the task of blogging about this amazing production without giving anything away.

This startling and thought provoking production has four shows remaining in its run. If you haven’t already gotten your tickets, do so immediately – you won’t be sorry. (Click here for tickets)

I went into this production having never read the book. I had no idea what to expect and had no preconceived notions about how the story would play out.

But it was beautiful. Perfect. The set design was ingenious. Monochromatic and stark, yet filled with lush color as the story dictated. The use of video to accent each setting in the play was like nothing I had experienced before. The sound was mesmerizing; the way  sound was used to transition from scene to scene was so dynamic, I sometimes felt I was being pushed along as well.

But the most intricately designed set is nothing if the actors using it aren’t doing their job. The actors, which goes without saying as this is a Childpslay production, were…perfect. They captured the feeling of the world in which their characters were living perfectly.

I saw this play with my 12 year old son. It speaks volumes to the power of this production that he and I are still discussing it at length a day later. While we always discuss the “Questions for the ride home” after each play, this play touched us so deeply that we are still pondering its many themes and messages. It has served as a springboard to share our feelings about fitting in and daring to make a difference. Something my son struggles with every day in middle school.

Needless to say, we are reading the book. We look forward to discovering if the Childpslay production was an accurate interpretation of the story, and if the themes will resonate as powerfully in the written word as they did in live theatre.

I see most Childsplay productions, and I have my favorites. This production of “The Giver” has nudged out “Getting Near to Baby” as the production that has most profoundly affected me; I simply can’t get it off my mind.

You have got to see this play.

“Rock the Presidents” Rocks!

When I got my Childsplay brochure in the mail, I read it with delight…”Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type” – Awesome! “A Wrinkle in Time” – No way – so cool! “The Giver” – Can’t wait! “Rock the Presidents” – awww…bummer.  Won’t be able to see that one. Sigh.

You see, “Rock the Presidents”  was performed last year, but I didn’t get to go. My kids went, my nieces and nephew went, and my husband went. Me? I had to work my part time job. Darn this bad economy and the necessity of paying bills.

I sat down with the gang to figure out what productions we were going to use this year’s set of play passes on.  They each had a brochure with the season’s offerings detailed, and together we start to make our Childsplay plans.

I start the process by saying “Well, since you have already seen “Rock the Presidents”, should we see “Rock Paper Scissors” first?

They stop me with a “Wait! But Mom! (Auntie!), you haven’t seen “Rock the Presidents”, and we want to see it with you!”

Well, how cool was this? While I know they all thoroughly enjoyed the production of “Rock the Presidents” (they all still mention it, especially with the current election season), I had no idea they liked it so much they would want to use our precious play passes  to see it a second time. With me. So, I asked them, what was so great about it?

The 18 year old: “The music was phenomenal. It is totally your kind of music. Plus, Mom, it’s Childsplay. When is it not awesome? Do you know if Yolanda London is in it again?” (I do not..)

The 15 year old: “I found it to be accurate, interesting and so much fun. The music is amazing.”

The 12 year old: “It’s quite educational, and your knowledge of our nation’s history is seriously lacking” (he isn’t wrong…). “Plus, the music is crazy good.”

The 11 year old: “It helped  me pass my president’s test in social studies. And it was so much fun!”

The 10- year old: “I NEED to see it again. I am learning the presidents this year. Plus the music is so fun, all I wanted to do is get up and dance!”

The 9 year old: “I did dance! And I want to dance again!”

I am always up for a play, and with that list of recommendations, it sounds like it will be a fun, music-filled experience. Just got the tickets, and I am super excited!

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