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Review: THE NEVERENDING STORY at Contemporary Theater Company

Review: THE NEVERENDING STORY at Contemporary Theater Company

Contemporary Theater Company’s earnest, engaging production of THE NEVERENDING STORY entertains kids and kids-at-heart through July 30.

Fantasies might be known for their wonderful creatures and far-off worlds, but the best of them tell stories that tackle challenging topics with poignancy and grace. For kids and kids-at-heart, The Neverending Story - playing through July 30 at Wakefield's Contemporary Theater Company - offers a heartfelt, inventive take on a classic fantasy novel about the power of imagination to overcome grief.

Though most '80s babies (and their children) know The Neverending Story from the popular 1984 film, the tale originated in Michael Ende's German novel of the same name, which was published in 1979. In it, a young boy named Bastian copes with his mother's recent death by escaping into the worlds of books - until, that is, one very special book calls upon him to save the people of Fantastica from The Nothing, a devastating force that is spreading despair throughout their world. In the process, Bastian must process his own grief, finding a way to follow hope from within his pain.

It's a children's story that takes children seriously - honoring their emotions and celebrating their imaginations - and Contemporary Theater Company's current production of David S.Craig's stage adaptation does just that. Cast and crew capture the wonder and weirdness of Fantastica's many inhabitants - from trolls to minotaurs, ancient giants to friendly gnomes - while orchestrating the play's more sensitive moments with simplicity and grace.

The ensemble cast is cohesive, versatile, and deeply committed to the material, with most members taking on multiple, vastly different roles during the play's 90 minutes. Among them, Merynn Flynn is a standout. Whether capturing the drawling wisdom of the ancient Morla, the gentle innocence of The Childlike Empresses, or the villainous hunger of a spidery shape-shifter, Flynn is a multi-talented, generous performer who creates characters that are both unforgettable and alive. Also excellent are Magenta Kolakowski - especially as the disembodied Uyalula - and Neal Leaheey as the scientist gnome, Engeywook.

The play's direction and art design are just as essential to capturing the kaleidoscopic string of fantastic characters and scenes that animate the story. Director Tammy Brown creatively deploys stage props and lighting to create dramatic fantasy effects - a hunted buffalo is cast as a shadow on a white scrim, and actors manipulate swaths of black fabric to simulate The Nothing as it swallows the Wind (played hauntingly by the ensemble). But perhaps most noteworthy are the many puppets - all created for the production by local artists - that help bring each of Fantastica's otherworldly inhabitants to life while capturing the dark-edged whimsey woven throughout the story.

Inspired direction and art design, coupled with a committed and cohesive ensemble cast, make The Neverending Story an earnest, engaging theater experience - both for families with children and for adults looking to remember what it was like to be kids themselves. The show will play at the Contemporary Theater Company, located at 327 Main Street in Wakefield, until July 30. Tickets are available at 401-218-0282, or via the theater's website:®id=79&

From This Author - Jessica Tabak


Jessica Tabak is a writer and teacher working in the Providence area. She has a BA in Theater and English and a PhD in English. While in college, she filled theatrical roles both on and... (read more about this author)

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