Review: BARNEY CAREY GETS HIS WINGS at Austin Scottish Rite Theater

Written by Brendan Murray, BARNEY CAREY GETS HIS WINGS is joyful and heartwarming.

By: Feb. 22, 2024
Review: BARNEY CAREY GETS HIS WINGS at Austin Scottish Rite Theater
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It is so delightful to walk into a theater and see chairs moved to the side so children can sit on the floor directly in front of the stage to see a show. Indeed, backing up a bit, it is even more delightful to walk into a theater and see children excited about seeing a show. Despite an increasing array of theater and performing arts camps for young people to attend, live theater meant for children is far less robust. Austin Scottish Rite Theater is one of the Austin theater companies that work diligently to provide consistent and quality theater directly intended for children, and their latest show, BARNEY CAREY GETS HIS WINGS, is a joyful, heartwarming addition.

The story involves Barney Carey (Griffen McDonald), a rambunctious and inquisitive seven-“and-a-half'' year old, his father Michael Carey (Robert Deike), and Agnes (Kellee ‘Broadway’ Fuller), a charming and unusual “not-fairy-godmother.” All the action takes place in a garage, opening with the father working on a bicycle and Barney playing and pretending to fly around him. As the narrative develops, Barney’s father discovers a trunk of his childhood memorabilia. Several items are pulled out, one of which is a pair of fairy wings. Barney is immediately enamored with the wings and, from there, we witness a story that gently transforms the father, honors heartfelt and earnest questions from Barney, and encourages us all to embrace different forms of personal expression, celebrate with the freedom that act can bring, and demonstrates one way in which partnering with difference may bring joy to all of us.

The cast of BARNEY is compelling and effective, skillfully directed by Jelena Stojiljkovic Rhynes. Robert Deike (Barney’s Dad) had me completely convinced he could be my dad (or anyone’s dad), processing the tensions between his own ingrained, unquestioned beliefs alongside his son’s unrestrained sincerity and inquisitiveness. The transformation Barney’s Dad undergoes unfolds very naturally thanks to Deike’s skill. Moving from words like ”people can’t wear whatever they want… there are girl clothes and boy clothes… and we have rules to keep things ticking along, keep them the same” to joyfully flying with Barney at the end is so lovely. His performance gives me hope for the continued transformation of the world around us, learning to embrace each person on their own terms. Griffen McDonald (Barney Carey) captures the energy and spirit of a young child well, reminding us to use our heart’s guidance when authentically questioning things around us, and Kellee “Broadway” Fuller (Agnes) absolutely captures the forthright goading personality of the unusual “not-fairy-godmother.”

The proscenium stage at Scottish Rite was perfect for Deanna Belardinelli and Vicki Yoder’s set design for this play; the audience is standing in a driveway and looking into someone’s garage. The stacks of storage containers and units of shelving could be anyone’s garage, and immediately offers a familiar welcome. Johann Solo (composer) and Julián Gamez-Arizola’s live music was very effective; I particularly love the music for flying, it is so joyful and free! The very natural appearance of Barney and his dad was greatly influenced by wise costuming choices by Jennifer Rose Davis, as well as the other-worldly dress of Agnes. Kudos to AJ Reyes (Stage Manager) and their crew for all the work a set with many pieces entails. 

I highly recommend BARNEY CAREY GETS HIS WINGS for audiences of all ages. At 47 minutes long and performed as a matinée, it is perfect for the whole family and its message of embracing and celebrating difference is one that needs to be told and retold. 


Written by Brendan Murray

Austin Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W 18th St., Austin

February 17 to March 10, 2024; Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Running Time: 47 minutes; no intermission.

Starting at $15-22.