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BWW Reviews: Childsplay's CHARLOTTE'S WEB Is A Heartwarming and Uplifting Tribute to Fidelity

Hats off to Childsplay for mastering the transfer from page to stage of E.B. White's classic Charlotte's Web and for casting an ensemble that renders authenticity and depth to this joyous and heartwarming paean to love, friendship, loyalty, and, yes, mortality.

Anthony Runfola has directed a seamless production in which cast, set, lights, sound, and costume conspire to create a world that is evocative of innocence and possibility.

William H. Symington V's ruddy and majestic open-framed barn and Tim Monson's brilliant flow of soft pastel skies create the rustic milieu in which Wilbur the pig, born a runt, survives the axe, thanks to the intervention of young Fern Arable (Kate Haas) and, of course, the very special spider in the loft.

Kyle Sorrell convincingly depicts Wilbur's innocence and vulnerability, trembling at one moment in fear of the chopping block, somersaultingly ecstatic at another about his salvation, and ever humble.

Wilbur's barnyard companions, all clad in Adriana Diaz's exquisite costumes, are a bevy of distinctive personalities, delightfully portrayed by Yolanda London (Sheep), Katie McFadzen (Goose), and Jon Gentry (Templeton). Gentry's is a tour de force performance of the flighty and irascible rat who, albeit begrudgingly at times, does what needs to be done to save the day. Gentry seems to flow to his own choreography, his gestures and grimaces and groans a faultless composition of his own manufacture.

Debra K. Stevens commands the loft as Charlotte, exuding grace and elegance, deftly weaving into her web Wilbur's attributes ~ magical declarations to the human observer that Wilbur is a very special pig to be saved. Stevens is regal in her role, epitomizing the most tender of maternal instincts and embodying the spirit of a savior.

When you live on a farm, you learn about the cycles of life, you become inured to their waves and truths, in ways that city life may not impart. Life on the Arable Family farm may reflect a time long gone, but the beauty of theatre is that it can transport us to that time and that place and reveal if not remind us about some of life's fundamental truths and enduring values. Childsplay's production of Charlotte's Web effectively and movingly fulfills this role.

This company understands that the theatrical experience extends beyond what happens on the stage ~ with pre-production primers and post-production questions that the children in the audience and their families can ponder for hours after. In this poignant play about fidelity and love, Childsplay again raises the bar(n).

Charlotte's Web runs through October 12th at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Photo credit: Tim Trumble

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From This Author Herbert Paine