BWW Review: Theater Works Presents THE LITTLE PRINCE
When I first read St. Exupery's THE LITTLE PRINCE decades ago, I was transfixed by the timeless story of the unusual little person (to be sure, an interplanetary explorer) who befriends a marooned pilot ~ by its wisdom, magic, spirituality and bittersweet humanity. Since then, in the many times that I have revisited it, I have treasured it as a fable about love and loyalty and true "matters of importance."
Rich layers of meaning percolate between the book's covers, each subject to the eyes and minds of their beholders. So rich and enduring that numerous adaptations have been made, including the play by Rick Cummins and the late John Scoullar, which is now the opening production of Theater Works' YouthWorks Season.
Directed by Paul Pedersen, the show is technically elegant and sublimely well-acted. Brett Aiken, Michelle Barry, and Matthew Sanders have endowed the simply set stage with an air of magic and possibility ~ a desert landscape overlooked by a full moon that beholds flights of fancy and wellsprings of insight.
Scarlett Abernathy, all of 11 years old and a sixth grader, is enchanting as the golden-haired prince, treading the boards like an old soul and melting divine moments with a lovable laugh. This young actor is the wow factor of this play, embodying in motion and expression the essence of her character, and also proving that less is more.
Likewise, Noah Clark brings a refreshing natural demeanor and sensitivity to his role as the Aviator and narrator of the tale.
In this story within a story, both share a close encounter of a very special kind, and each weaves a path to enlightenment.
The pilot toils at repairing his "friend" (the plane) while listening to the Little Prince's account of his journey from his tiny asteroid and his beloved rose (Lindsay Gagnon). From one planet to another, the prince meets "adults" (a king, lamplighter, businessmen, and a geographer), all of whom are self-absorbed, if not stuck in their quotidian ruts, and share the trait of narrow-mindedness. It's a truth that we all know but suppress, that something along the way to "growing up" steals away our innocence and imagination.
Along the way, the Little Prince's encounter with the Fox (Olivia Pratt) is revelatory. It's a seminal moment in the journey, during which some of the most memorable and instructive of St. Exupery's lines about friends and relationships are uttered by this slinky sly creature. Olivia Pratt infuses this role with grace and fluidity and a knowing sparkle in her eyes.
By story's end, in moments that are at one and the same time poignant and uplifting, the audience will be treated by a remarkable young cast to necessary reminders that "the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart," and that you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."
THE LITTLE PRINCE runs through October 8th in the McMillin Theater of the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.
Photo credit to John Groseclose