Get the Whole Family in on the Prank with Tilly the Trickster

by Regina Ford

Tilly is a grade school-aged youngster with an inkling for playing pranks on her family, friends, at school, and on just about anyone. This kid doesn’t discriminate. At the start of the show, Tilly announces, “I love, love, love to play tricks.” What follows is 75 minutes of electrically charged energy full of song and dance and Tilly’s relentless, not-really-dangerous practical jokes. 

Janet Roby as Tilly's Mom, Christopher Moseley as Tilly's Dad, Austin Killian as Peppermint, and Samantha Cormier as Tilly. Photo courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Janet Roby as Tilly’s Mom, Christopher Moseley as Tilly’s Dad, Austin Killian as Peppermint, Teddy (puppet), and Samantha Cormier as Tilly. Photo courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Tilly the Trickster, a family friendly show, written by Jeremy Dobrish with music and lyrics by Drew Fornarola and based on the children’s book written by actress and comedian of SNL fame, Molly Shannon, is running now at Live Theatre Workshop, just in time for the holiday season. This energetic show is definitely not your traditional  holiday presentation. There’s no Santa, no stockings, and no tree, but there is a message that goes beyond the tinsel and gingerbread: Tricks are not always fun for everyone, no matter how harmless they seem.

No one escapes Tilly’s tricks and mayhem starts first thing each morning. Her breakfast antics send her baby brother’s cereal flying throughout the room, much to the annoyance of her parents. Their frustration is highlighted with the song, “Where Did We Go Wrong?” The only one delighted to see breakfast on the floor is Peppermint, the family dog.

Tilly’s antics result in her schoolmates missing the bus. A gift of hot candy to her teacher gets her sent to the principal, with no results. Punishing Tilly is no use. She pretends she’s sorry but lets the audience know with a smile and wink that her game is not over.

Tilly is taxing, but not cruel. She believes everyone she pranks thinks it’s funny, too. I want to thank Shannon for writing her starring character as a girl. My recollection of mean girls in grade school is pretty vivid. For the shy or overweight kids or anyone who was “different,” the girl’s gym class was a venue for ridicule and pranks causing cruel humiliation.

I doubt very much if the toddlers in the audience understood the moral of the show, but watching their faces, I could see that the singing and dancing and especially the tricks kept them entranced for most of the performance. 

Shannon and Dobrish included some dark humor in their dialogue that missed the mark for me. When the principal is trying to teach Tilly a lesson he recounts his own troubled childhood and describes tormenting animals. Hmm? That scene disturbed me. Even though the principal is remorseful for his behavior, taunting animals sends a message that may be misunderstood by young children.

The actors worked well as a unified ensemble and created a variety of characters with ease.

Samantha Cormier (Tilly) never let her energy down, and her ability to play a grade school student is pretty amazing. I would have avoided her Tilly like the plague if I went to her school. Cormier was very good but I really would like to see how a preteen actor would have handled the role.

Janet Roby played three roles: Tilly’s mom, Tilly’s teacher Mrs. Mooney, and a cat (puppet). Roby and Christopher Moseley, who portrayed Tilly’s dad, as well as the bus driver and the school principal, worked so well together as Tilly’s freaked out parents. Both actors were nerdy enough to appease the younger audience members yet sympathetic enough for parents to identify with as they coped with a rambunctious child. They also had great catchy musical numbers with clever lyrics like those in ‘Mornings Stink.”  Words like fart, litter box and pee-ew fit right into dialogue and lyrics.

Tilly’s younger brother is played by a puppet brought to life by Kyleigh Sacco, who also acted the part of a bird (puppet) plus Tilly’s school friend Emily. Sacco nailed the role of Teddy, the baby brother. This character was portrayed using a puppet and, dressed in black clothes, she maneuvered Teddy around the stage wonderfully. She disappeared as Teddy came to life.

Samantha Cormier as Tilly and Austin Killian as Peppermint. Photo courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Samantha Cormier as Tilly and Austin Killian as Peppermint. Photo courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Peppermint the dog is one of my favorite characters in the show. Austin Killian makes this comical canine the pet you want to adopt and call your best friend. Peppermint shares enlightening speeches that it is made clear only the audience can understand. He becomes the voice of reason for the play. Just when he thinks he’s understood by the other characters, they let him know that all they hear is “Arf! Arf! Arf!”

The choreography by Amanda Gremel was simple but also a creative balance with the music direction by Taylor Thomas. The set, designed by Richard Gremel, was so simple yet very effective. Childlike hand painted drawings depicting some of the trickster’s props in the show surrounded the stage on three sides while the title of the musical, “Tilly the Trickster,” took center stage serving as the show’s background throughout the performance. All the cast moved props off and on the stage and their work as a tight ensemble made the show just flow.

Tilly the Trickster is appropriate for the entire family, although I think very young children may not understand the plot. That’s where the music and the strong zany characters will capture their imaginations. It is playing at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 3pm through December 28th. Tickets can be purchased online at livetheatreworkshop.org or by calling the box office at 327-4242.

A Magical Storm

by Marguerite Saxton

A bed, bathed in violet blacklight, hovers. It serves as a token to magical realism. This type of storytelling doesn’t do the work for you. Instead, it allows you to engage with the magic and the real for yourself. For those not familiar with the term, magical realism is an artistic genre in which fantastic elements appear in an otherwise hyper-realistic setting. Though authors and artists worldwide incorporate it in their work, it is strongly associated with Latin American literature and art. High-profile examples include Julie Taymor’s film Frida and Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. Cloud Tectonics, written by José Rivera and here directed by Bryan Rafael Falcón, features a rare-for-Tucson glimpse into this type of surreality.  

Azúl Galindo as Celestina del Sol. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Azúl Galindo as Celestina del Sol. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

From the moment the female protagonist Celestina del Sol, played by Azúl Galindo, appears, we feel the uncommon nature of this play.  We meet her in the bizarre madness of a Los Angeles typhoon. She, a wandering woman with a pretty obvious predicament, lucks out with a ride from the benevolent but emotionally wounded Aníbal, played by Marc Pinate.  What develops is a swirling layer cake of happenings. 

If you want simplicity, this isn’t your show. Don’t expect answers — you may leave confused. But isn’t that fun? Well, I enjoy that kind of story. 

See, without linear explanations in the way, the eccentric stray thoughts of people have more space to solidify blurred edges of this tale.  The performance has an overall disorienting feeling due in part to the innate quirks of these characters. But more so, Galindo’s cadence is markedly off-beat and this lends to a strange affect. Her chemistry with Pinate’s character is odd yet, one has to ask, is this by design? Is this a byproduct of the phenomena of forced intimacy in surreal romantic plots or could it be related to our basic perception of time, how it folds upon itself, how it shape-shifts in our memory? Does the macho superego of Aníbel’s brother Nelson, played by Cole Potwardowski, have to be so antagonistic; does all of the affection have to be so extreme in order for us to get the playwright’s intent? And most pressing, who/what is Celestina? Well, you choose.  

Between long spaces of silence are welcomed interjections of TV static and radio noise.  Touches of absurdity in minor key tones and tinny vignettes projected into vintage microphones help us realize that time has become irrelevant. As one watches this performance they may ponder their geography as an audience member, where the characters have gone, and whether it even matters.

The silent, rhythmic set assemblages add a subtle homage to magic. Between scenes, amongst muted blue light, two technicians move in unison like otherworldly helpers. They float throughout the set, rearranging elements in order to bring new life to the stage. In one particularly moving moment they methodically disassemble the house — and one cannot help but extend the metaphor further: the dissolution of a home – the breaking of a heart -the haunting in one’s head. Their eerie presence accompanied by the sustained raindrops and shaking thunder claps gives the illusion of a controlled chaos; that it is indeed, much crazier “out there”. 

There are some links to grander, worldwide issues and if one is willing, they may sense a commentary on sanity, the well-being of young women, and how a culture’s relationship to time has major implications on its people. But trying to keep up with the who, what, and when of this production is complicated. The unique and pleasing challenge of Cloud Tectonics is allowing oneself to embrace the ambiguity of it all. As Celestina says, “Time and I don’t hang out together.”

Cloud Tectonics runs from November 21st through December 8th at the Scoundrel & Scamp Theater, located at 738 N. 5th Avenue. Tickets can be purchased by calling (520) 448-3300 or visiting https://scoundrelandscamp.org.

Some Bright Moments but No Payoff in Ballyhoo

by Gretchen Wirges

The Last Night of Ballyhoo, by Alfred Uhry, takes place in the Atlanta home of an assimilated 1939 Atlanta Jewish family whose social-climbing matriarch, Boo (Eavan Clare Brunswick) directly rejects their heritage. Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of Ballyhoo, while witty and sometimes charming, lays victim to a script filled with sappy sentimentality and conflict with no payoff. 

Lala (Carly Natania Grossman), is Gone with the Wind obsessed and dying for the right boy to ask her to the dance on the last night of Ballyhoo, the southern Jewish festival. Her uncle brings home a colleague for dinner, Joe Farkas (Jaime Plá), a Jew from Brooklyn. We quickly discover, as anti-semitic epithets are used, that there is a status delineation between German Jews and those “East of the Elbe river.” The Elbe river runs between Germany and Czechoslovakia, as Aunt Reba (Elana Rose Richardson) explains. 

Carly Natania Grossman Lala and Eavan Clare Brunswick as Boo. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Carly Natania Grossman Lala and Eavan Clare Brunswick as Boo. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Some comedic moments are offered up by the affable Uncle Adolf (Liam Thibeault), though his character too accepts the discrimination within the Jewish community of those Jews deemed lesser and who are excluded from joining the more prominent country clubs or attending the fashionable events. This pattern plays out similarly with Peachy Weil (Michael Schulz). His jokes and playful nature are quickly overshadowed by his negative and offensive characterization of “the other Jews.” 

Many of the performances were a little underplayed under the direction of Hank Stratton. Brunswick’s portrayal of Boo was a little one-note. We lost the complexities of the character, a balance of her expectations of her daughter, the cultural struggles she faces, and her own overall happiness to a delivery that often just came off as mean and snobbish. Richardson, as Aunt Reba, was sweet but also lacking dimension. 

The real standouts in this production were Grossman as Lala and Thibeault as Adolf. Grossman is electric, and allows us a glimpse into Lala’s myriad of emotions and dreams. She plays the familial conflict of culture with finesse. Grossman brought every scene she was in to life. The poignant scene between Lala and Sunny (Gabriela Giutsi) was as funny as it was gutting.  Quite the opposite end of the energy spectrum but equally talented, was Thibeault in the role of Adolf. He was grounded and believable, patient and observant. 

Many of the costumes (Alexia Avey, costume designer)  were beautifully period and well-crafted. Hello, purple pleated piece of gorgeousness in Act 2! But, I found it oddly distracting that a few of the costumes’ color matched the pieces of decor in the set. A brown dress the same color as the drapes, and so many pastel blues that blended in with the furniture and couch pillows. Another distracting costuming element was that all of the female roles wore wigs. Each wig had that synthetic shine that even an amateur can pick out as an imposter. The obvious heavy-handed costuming in this case further distracted from an otherwise stunning visual presentation. (Set design, Joe Klug).  

While I enjoyed the performances, I was left feeling let down by the story. Sunny  takes up romantically with Joe (considered one of the “other Jews”) and he discovers her family’s long-standing perception of those like him. The dramatic scene that I had been waiting for never happened. Joe confronts Sunny. Joe and Sunny make up. And in the last moments of the play, we see the entire family celebrating an important Jewish tradition together. Even though the play was two hours long, I felt as though I had accidentally skipped a scene where Boo is confronted on her prejudice, Adolf is taken to task on towing the line of accepted ignorance, and Peachy gets the boot instead of Lala’s hand in marriage. 

The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a play that allows us to catch a glimpse of real issues and cultural conflicts but never really produces. It’s a conversation starter. It feels like the type of play a theater company chooses when they want to seem edgy without really delving into the conversation of conflict. There are better, more contemporary plays to choose if we want to really address issues of discrimination and oppression. I left the theater desperately wanting to know more about the history of Jews in the American South. The little I did find out in Ballyhoo,  was glossed over by party dresses, plates of late night chicken, and Scarlett O’Hara.  

The Last Night of Ballyhoo runs through November 24th at ART’s Tornabene Theater. Tickets are available via their website at theatre.arizona.edu or by calling the box office at 621-1162.

U of A’s Pippin Still Has Some Magic To Do

by Lena Quach

Pippin is a mysterious musical filled with memorable music, magic and simple joys. The story follows the young prince Pippin and his quest for fulfillment in life. Pippin originally opened in 1972 with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson. The original production was directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse. Arizona Repertory Theater, directed and choreographed by Christie Kerr, had some rather large shoes to fill and unfortunately did not succeed. 

I was excited when I first came in and saw the rather impressive set. I have seen Pippin in a couple different forms and this looked promising. I was quickly let down by the ending of the song “Magic To Do”. The ensemble of players were all beautiful and sounded amazing but lacked the mystery and pizzazz that you usually see in the first number of the show. 

Tony Moreno as and Paige Mills as The Leading Player. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Tony Moreno as Pippin and Paige Mills as The Leading Player. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

I did see some small homages to the original choreographer in the show but felt that maybe the choreography was too advanced for the cast. Yes, Fosse is an extremely hard dance style to perfect but there was a very large disconnect between the actors and the movement. It was especially noticeable in the isolations of the hips that looked more like twerking and the movements of the arms that looked more like a bird flapping then a directed movement coming from the back. These movements are essential that highlight and add levels to the catchy score. This was the productions biggest let down. 

I was also quite disappointed by Paige Mills in the role of The Lead Player. This role is so essential to the show and how the story is told. Mills has an agile and clear voice and I can see why she was cast in the role for that alone. The Lead Player should be more mysterious and should have more of an inner battle between herself and her sympathy for Pippin, in certain parts of the show. This rendition of the character seemed to plateau quickly and never see any depth until the end of the show. Mills put in a solid effort with choreography and blocking given to her but lacked grace and the showstopping quality that any Lead Player should posses. 

There were some highlights in the show including some very magical characters. Tony Moreno played the title role of Pippin. Moreno has a beautiful voice and gave the audience the perfect balance of his character that can sometimes come off as awkward and somewhat rude to completely charming and heroic. Moreno is definitely going places. I was also very impressed by Tristan Caldwell who added just the right amount of sass and comedy to the character Charlemagne. I was completely charmed by Marina Devaux as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe. Devaux gave me a Broadway-worthy performance and had me singing along during her number. Catherine, played by Sofia Gonzalez, was sweet, beautiful and organic just like any Catherine should be. 

In the end, Arizona Repertory Theater’s production of Pippin still has some “Magic To Do”. The ensemble gave an honest performance filled with magic tricks, great vocals, and some Broadway-worthy highlights but lacked the mystery, grittiness, and dancing with purpose. 

You can catch Arizona Repertory’s production of Pippin now through November 3rd at the University of Arizona’s Marroney Theatre. Tickets can be purchased via their website at theatre.arizona.edu or by calling the box office at (520) 621-1162. 

 

To Connect or Disconnect, That Is the Question

by China Young

The Last Train to Nibroc, by Arlene Hutton, invites us into a story of two people, a man and a woman, who meet on a train in the middle of the US as World War II evolves. They proceed to maintain a relationship throughout the next few years, though whether the relationship is romantic or not remains unclear until the end – I won’t give it away, but I bet you can guess. It’s a story we’ve seen many times, leaving me wondering, among so many other things, why we need to see it again.

Damien Garcia as Raleigh and Samantha Cormier as May. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

Damien Garcia as Raleigh and Samantha Cormier as May. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

In the program Hutton, the playwright, states that the idea for the play came when she learned that the post-mortem bodies of authors Nathaniel West and F. Scott Fitzgerald traveled on the same train at the same time. She further explains that she chose to introduce her two characters, who were loosely based on her parents, on that same train, and from there she generates “a patchwork quilt of family lore and love stories I heard as a child, all stitched together to tell the fictional tale of May and Raleigh.” Layering a partly fictional love story over a slightly morbid bit of trivia from the past is a bit of a disjointed foundation and is perhaps the root reason I felt multiple layers of disconnect as I tried to absorb this production. 

Susan Claassen, the Managing Artistic Director ushering Invisible Theatre into an impressive 49th year, also directs performers Samantha Cormier (May) and Damien Garcia (Raleigh) in the second show of Invisible Theatre’s 19-20 Season. All of these artists have strong portfolios, offer major contributions to the Tucson theatre community in general, and I have the utmost respect for each of them as fellow theatre artists. Unfortunately, my experience of this production does not reflect the quality of work I know these artists are capable of. I found myself constantly questioning beat shifts, character choices, staging, and a number of other elements that continue to confuse me.

Before I go into more detail on what I found disjointed, let me discuss what worked. The set design by Tom Benson was beautiful and cleverly designed, working in tandem with the strategic staging by Claassen. Each scene, all set in different times and locations, all felt very different environmentally despite them all being on the same set.

The costume designs by Maryann Trombino were great, especially for May. Women often have the better fashions in period-pieces and this was no exception. I especially appreciated how the evolution of her costumes through the timeline of the show reflect the chronology of World War II, from fashionable to rationed simplicity.

The sound design by Rob Boone felt almost like another character as it introduces the audience to the world of the play with a voice over of President Roosevelt talking to the American people. This moment was actually one of the most engaging for me as an audience member. The words of Roosevelt from (circa) 1940 could so easily be addressing our nation today. They resonated with me in such a way that my interest was immediately piqued and I was excited for the show I was about to experience – eager to see what other commentaries it might offer to further parallel “then” and “now.” However, the show never developed the commentary I anticipated from the words of Roosevelt, thus enveloping my entire experience with a degree of disconnect I just couldn’t shake.

Returning to the script, the language seemed to have a spiral-like pattern of repetition, which I believe was a tool the playwright gave the cast and director that wasn’t wielded effectively. In retrospect, I think the audience needed those repetitive moments to anchor us as observers to the beat shifts and tactical changes of the characters as they navigate their own connectivity. Instead I found myself lost in the dialogue, trying to understand what these characters were saying, and why they were saying it the way they were. The intentions that the actors were playing felt out of sync with the rhythms provided in the dialogue, further disengaging me. The use of accents may have added another layer of disconnect to this, with the cadence of the accents often taking over the performance, causing the meaning of what is being said or felt by the character to be lost in translation. In addition, I experienced a lack of chemistry between Garcia and Cormier, further impacting my confusion around character intentions. As I mentioned earlier, this is a story that I knew how it was going to end before it began, which means I was an extra hard sell when it comes to how invested I am throughout that journey, and I may be a harder sell than your average audience member when it comes to love stories in general. 

Last Train 2

Damien Garcia as Raleigh and Samantha Cormier as May. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

By the end, instead of feeling warm and fuzzy, as I imagine the playwright, cast, and director wanted me to feel, I just felt “meh.” I ask again, why did I need to hear this story – again? In my effort to gain more clarity around this question, I watched the Arizona Public Media “Spotlight on the Arts” feature on this production (https://youtu.be/kJna42HDAnE). In this interview, Cormier discusses the way the show repeatedly brings the characters to the edge of connecting, and yet they consistently miss true connection. It’s interesting to consider this since I did experience these “missed connections,” but not it in a way that made me root for them, which is how Cormier describes her relationship with their evolution. Unfortunately, I lost interest in the story and characters instead.

I admittedly may be in the minority when it comes to my experience of Last Train to Nibroc. When the show ended, I heard people say “that was so good,” as well as other exclamations of enjoyment and satisfaction. I encourage folks to see Last Train to Nibroc for themselves – I do believe that this production is exactly what some people are looking for when they want to enjoy a night of theatre. Just because I didn’t make a love connection with it doesn’t mean you won’t. 

Closing this week, you can see it Wednesday, October 30 through Saturday November 2 at 7:30pm, with 3:00pm matinees Saturday, November 2 and Sunday, November 3. Tickets are $35 by calling the Invisible Theatre Box Office at 520-882-9721 or purchasing online at invisibletheatre.com.

Silent Sky is a Fiery Force

by Marguerite Saxton

Playwright Lauren Gunderson writes about women. She tells stories of brave women who altered history through their acts. This is an interesting story-within-a-story given that Gunderson’s life is, in and of itself, a challenge to the status quo. She is considered the most produced living playwright in America. Her prolific pen did not falter in writing Silent Sky, currently on stage at Arizona Theatre Company. Silent Sky is the story of 19th-century female astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. 

Veronika Duerr as Henrietta Leavitt. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of Arizona Theatre Company.

Veronika Duerr as Henrietta Leavitt. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of Arizona Theatre Company.

Though she has many accomplishments, Leavitt is best known for discovering a way to measure distances to the stars. Born a fiery force in a world that prized domesticity, Leavitt blazed the path for giants such as Edwin Hubble. Her story is one to be told with dignity and pride, and ATC succeeds in delivering. 

Director Casey Stangl makes smart and sensitive choices, casting empowered women who deliver crisp, unapologetic ranges of humor, insight, and seriousness. Veronika Duerr, who portrays Henrietta Leavitt, offers up a nuanced and complicated woman, filled with passion for her work, disdain for normalcy, but appreciation for family. Duerr’s version of Leavitt showcases the many choices women who dare to shine brightly must make along the way, sometimes eschewing partnership or raising a family or other life affirming possibilities in order to pursue the big dream. What I appreciate about how Leavitt is characterized is more than this though. It’s how she didn’t always seem to know the answers either. She is a brilliant and confident woman who also doesn’t know how to navigate the grey areas of life. She is fatigable, and charmingly so.

Annie Cannon and Williamina Fleming, two of Leavitt’s colleagues and strong women in their own right, bring a balance to the performance. In sync and flowing freely through their scenes, Inger Tudor, who plays Cannon, and Amelia White, who portrays Fleming, are constant bursts of light in the overarching theme of patriarchal oppression. They must challenge it with their basic existence but find comical ways to do so. Referencing Newton’s, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” one of Fleming’s lines goes: “There’s been a lot of stupid giants”.

A breathtaking infusion of stagecraft and lighting happens between the work of scenic designer Jo Winiarski and Lighting Designer Jaymi Lee Smith. The theme of luminescence pervades this production. We are witness to a pleasing spectrum of visual metaphor through a circular cyclorama. It provides a fresh and inventive take on visual storytelling and serves as a reminder of the grand, cyclical message of it all. An illuminated doorway floats in steady omniscience, seemingly knowing way more than the audience does. This is the portal from which people enter or exit Leavitt’s world with their tidbits of influence and challenge. 

The colors of Silent Sky were like the star-filled night. Dark blues, rich burgundies, royal purples, piercing light blue auras, all coming together to enrich the already well-designed space. 

Between nerdy science jokes and more austere matters such as, you know, breaking down the stigma of working woman and the never-ending glass ceiling we’ve faced throughout history, one will find tender moments of unanswerable paradoxes: a sister in need of support, an admirer who can only get so close, a journey not taken, a life refused to live. “During this time of immense scientific discoveries, women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). We see and feel this palpable struggle throughout the play. In it we experience the fight these women made to balance the daily expectations of their lives and their out-of-this-world desires.

What feels like a small victory for ATC is only slightly paled by the fact that the real Leavitt continued her work at the Harvard Observatory until her death, plucking stars from the sky and categorizing them with an open mind and unabashed curiosity. 

Lucky as we are, Tucsonans are treated to a free horizon show every night. Just look over at Gates Pass around sunset and see what folks from around the world come to capture pictures of. ATC has found a way to squeeze the magic of this beloved natural treasure into a theater, portraying one of its greatest stars with the dazzle she deserves. 

Silent Sky runs from through November 9th. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Arizona Theatre Company box office, calling (520) 622-2823, or online at arizonatheatre.org.

The Little Prince is Pure Magic

by Chloe Loos

The Little Prince is my favorite book. When I was a little girl, my mother introduced me to the world of the enigmatic prince and all the characters he meets throughout his travels of the universe. I didn’t, as most children don’t, quite grasp the eternal life lessons this book has granted me. As I’ve grown, I find myself drawn to quotes from the book that give me clarity. Many of us likely have a similar bond with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novel. Entering the star-strung set, all of my nostalgia came to light.

Kate Cannon (middle) as The Aviator with Julia Balestracci (left), Gretchen Wirges (right), and Lance Guzman (bottom). Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Kate Cannon (middle) as The Aviator with Julia Balestracci (left), Gretchen Wirges (right), and Lance Guzman (bottom). Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The Scoundrel & Scamp’s adaptation of the novel, translated by Claire Marie Mannle, and adapted and directed by Holly Griffith, delivers everything I so love about this book. I can’t remember the last time that I was so enthralled with a piece of theatre. It’s magical, it’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s poignantly sad, and every line is filled with deep truths and wisdom. It is in this space that we hear big truths from the little voices of both the prince both on stage and the one within us.

Cole Potwardowski as The Lamp Lighter and Ryuto Adamson as The Fox. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Cole Potwardowski as The Lamp Lighter and Ryuto Adamson as The Fox. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The ensemble cast, led by Kathleen Cannon as The Aviator, glided through this piece of work with grace. Attention was directed and kept so well; I would be so caught up in a performance that I wouldn’t notice the utter magic happening on stage until they reminded me to look for it. While every single performer had moments where they either made me laugh or sometimes brought me to tears – sometimes at the same time – special shout out to Gabriella de Brequet’s performance of the Rose, Cole Potwardowski as The Lamplighter, Ryuto Adamson as The Fox, and each one of Gretchen Wirges’ many characters. The ensemble was so strong and so striking in the physical, vocal, and character work that I sometimes forgot this wasn’t a cast of 30.

The performers navigated the tonal shifts and transitions with beauty and were strongly supported by music director Feliz Torralba. Torralba’s playing underscored multiple moments to the point that she and the music felt like another member of the ensemble. Her strong use of musical motifs helped us journey through the plot and tethered us to characters and emotions felt by the characters on stage and the audience.

In addition, the stagecraft was truly out of this world. The set featured a revolving platform and twinkles of starlight, supported by the incredible lighting (Raulie Martinez) which took us from day to night through sunrises, sunsets, dusk, and twilight. The props were childlike and simple but imbued with a sense of playful awe. No wonder we adults still go to the theatre. Kids go, too. I stayed for the talk back and a little boy, no more than 8, asked a question about what The Prince did after the end of the story, to which Griffith noted was the same sort of question the aviator would ask. This shows that the work we choose to do, as theatre makers, matters. By allowing a space to wonder, to hope, to welcome, the art done impacts hearts and minds of all ages.

Finally, I can’t remember seeing a production this diverse in a long time. Out of nine on-stage bodies, there were six women, half of whom were women of color, and three men, none of whom were white. The creative team was primarily made up of women as well. The variety of performers in this production reminds us that there is so much space for love, acceptance, and voices, if we only let them on stage. Through The Little Prince, those of us in the audience, especially those tired or excluded by lack of representation are reminded, simply, that this story is for all of us.

The Little Prince runs through Sunday, November 3rd at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. Tickets may be purchased online at scoundrelandscamp.org, by calling the box office at (520) 448-3300, or in-person an hour prior to the show.