BWW Reviews: CATCO is Kids' RUDE MECHANICALS is Full of Late Summer Laughs
CATCO Is Kids opened its 2013-14 children's series with a short, 3 performance run of a kid-friendly version of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Nights Dream", entitled "The Rude Mechanicals" at the Columbus Performing Arts Center last night. This adaptation, created by local playwright, Ed Graczyk, modifies the convoluted storyline of one of the Bard's most popular tales to a 45 minute, family-accessible version that Directors, Joe Bishara and Liz Wheeler, ambitiously tackle with a cast of 17 children.
The adaptation is particularly well-written, considering that the original tale contains four lovers, with multiple love triangles going on, interspersed with a team of day laborers charged with creating and performing a play, in order to win the contest sponsored by the local royalty-follow that? Yep, folks, this plot is why Cliff's Notes were created. In the adaptation, the storyline itself remains largely intact, though less in depth, and the language, while poetic, is more universally understood than its iambic pentameter counterpart.
Interestingly, the single character of the Duke (Tanner Sells and Toby Hattemer) and the single character of Hippolyta (Olivia Poling and Carly Sells) are each dual cast, with both performers for each role appearing on stage at the same time, where they share lines, speak lines together in unison, and create a dynamic that is intriguing, but a bit strange, and at times, off-beat. The timing needed to make this work unfortunately made the characters rather strained at times, and distracted from the energy of the show, as well as the whole idea of 9 year olds being part of a love triangle was a bit over-reaching., though this element was thankfully, rather understated in this adaptation. Narrator, Robin Goodfellow (played by Catherine Huffman) is the right mix of playful and mischievous that brings the comedy to life, and she is aided by some very nice uses of lighting changes (by Lighting Director, Curtis "Nitz" Brown), and the assistance of Propswoman, Stella Fried, that help to set the stage for some magical mayhem. Robin's minions (Rose Clubok, Georgia Fried, Scarlett Fried, and Zeke Fried) are darling and appear perfectly on cue with the clap of Robin's hands.
However, the real fun of this show is centered around the town tradesmen, Quince (Kate Glaser), Snug (Sarah Anne Kauffman), Snout (Katie Stewart), Starveling (Anna Morley), Nick Bottom (Gabe Garnes), and Flute (Corrine Gorgas)who attempt to create a play to perform at the wedding of the Dukes and Hippolytas in order to win a sizable prize. The talent in this cast ranges from children who are first-timers new to the stage, to veteran child performers, but Bishara and Wheeler do a nice job of balancing talent throughout. That said, the energy of the troupe belongs rightfully in the hands of Gabe Garnes, who as a more seasoned performer, is delightfully and appropriately over-the-top with his bumbling, though self-absorbed "donkey" of a character, much to the audience's amusement. The tradesmen's final presentation of their play had much of the younger crowd giggling throughout.
"Rude Mechanicals" is a "dip your feet in the water" kind of introduction to Shakespeare for younger audiences, that is a great educational theater experience, a steal at its $5 per seat ticket price, and worthy of more than a few good laughs to boot- not a bad way to kick off a children's theater season.
Come see CATCO Is Kids production of "The Rude Mechanicals" this weekend only, with performances on Saturday, 8/31 and Sunday, 9/1 at 2:30pm at the Columbus Performing Arts Center at 549 Franklin Avenue, Columbus 43215. For additional information and tickets, go to : http://catco.org/catco-is-kids/2013-2014/the-rude-mechanicals
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Generation Photography