Friday, August 10, 2018

The Velveteen Rabbit at Paper Wing Theatre

So, I am a man of complicated emotions.
On the one hand, I attend a show based on a classic children’s book of the same name. The show is adapted for the stage by a dear friend (Amanda Platsis), who is responsible both for the writing and direction. And it’s a great show- very artistic, well-paced, humorous, and with just enough artistic license to remain true to the original but with enough of her personal touch to make it different from other adaptations. I leave the theater happy and in good spirits.
But on the other hand, my car breaks down halfway home and I need to call a tow truck. A friend of mine stops along the way in order to offer a hand, though it winds up just keeping my wife and I company while we wait for the tow. I’m already in deep to my in-laws for personal issues I’d rather not get into. And my night feels rained upon and I’m left in a sour mood. Also, the show was already ending it’s run. It’s not like anyone could use it to promote their show or get anyone to see it based on my thoughts. Why bother? It was probably for the best that I leave things well enough alone. I don’t’ have to review EVERY show I see. Right?
But that freaking monkey kept dancing into the peripheral of my thoughts throughout the whole week. Dancing, moving, jumping, and tumbling around with an infectious energy. That monkey got me to thinking about the show again and again throughout the course of the following week. Yeah, so blame the monkey.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a well-known story that has been adapted in many different ways since its publication in 1922. Written by Margery Williams, the story follows a stuffed rabbit given to a small boy on Christmas morning. The boy plays with all of his other toys, ignoring the poor rabbit. One of the other toys tells the rabbit how a toy becomes “real” and it isn’t long before the boy is playing with the rabbit more than the others. And then, as they say, hilarity ensues.
The title character is played with youthful devotion by Raphael Morgan Sizemore, a charismatic young man whose soft voice and earnest eyes deliver a sense of devotion to the Boy (Donna Libelo). The Rabbit is, of course, joined by a menagerie of other toys; The treasured and extremely sleepy Scraggly Lion(Cheryl Karoly), the pompous and sharp edged Tin Soldier (Larry Oblander II), the [not all] fragile porcelain Doll (Kelsey Hansen), and the exuberantly loud Monkey, Persis “Kaya” Tomingas. And, as I mentioned before, it was that very monkey that kept dancing into my head and demanding that I write something about my thoughts to the show. It kept asking me questions, it kept insisting I write something, it kept tugging on my ear and angrily stomped it’s feet and clashed a pair of cymbals that didn’t even exist in the play itself. It just kept pounding until I eventually had to throw up my hands and bring my fingers crashing down on the keyboard. It was an infectious performance.
The Toys eventually leave the comfort of their playroom and encounter a trio of curious rabbits, led by Thistle (Keira Maroney) who commands her small pack to hop and eat the delicious grass. They taunt the poor Velvet, who is unable to play and join in with their own games. The faeries make their presence known- each flittering about to perform a duty specific to its’ nature. Each charming in their own right, the faeries are led by Teardrop (Suzy Nichols). But a long shadow creeps over all the characters- the presence of an Owl, it’s puppetry design requiring a three people to operate as it glides along the stage with wide wings and it’s bright glowing eyes seeking through both the stage and the audience itself. Voiced by Laura Be, the Owl is a beautifully creepy set piece in the imaginative production.
It was an enjoyable experience, intended as family entertainment. The cast is very good and all are fully invested in their characters, to call name-check them all would be exhaustive but they all deserve kudos. The story is brighter than some of the original material, so some edges are softened and the artistic direction. Platsis, a veteran at children’s shows, brings the best from her young performers and her artistic vision includes a wonderful sense of where and when to place the best music beneath the action on stage. Artistic designer Cody Moore’s ability is evident in various costume pieces, his own signature stamp on another successful Paper Wing Production for Families.
7 out of 10 and would be a nice recommend for Families, were the play still going on.     

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