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Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center's world premiere adaptation of the young adult fantasy classic brings the novel's unique blend of sci-fi and whimsical poetry to life.

The Kennedy Center's Performances for Young Audiences season is back, and it kicked off with a world premiere adaptation of the young adult fantasy classic A Wind in the Door. This wildly imaginative tale by Madeleine L'Engle is best known as the sequel to her Newbery Medal-winning novel A Wrinkle in Time, which has sparked multiple stage and film adaptations.

A Wind in the Door might have been slightly overshadowed by the acclaim of its literary predecessor, but it tells a story that's innovative and thrilling in its own right. The Kennedy Center's adaptation by Jacqueline Goldfinger and directed by Nicole A. Watson brings the novel's unique blend of sci-fi and whimsical poetry to life in a whirlwind performance.

From its very beginning, A Wind in the Door strikes a delicate balance between the peppy silliness of a kid-friendly adventure and the solemnity of a transcendent journey across the galaxy. It's dizzying in just the right way as the audience is thrown into the supernatural world of Meg and Charles Wallace's attic, where magical beings suddenly appear and an imaginary sub-cellular structure called the farandolae contains the secret to the universe's salvation.

Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center
Tyasia Velines as Progo and Alicia Grace as Meg go on a journey together in the Kennedy Center's A Wind in the Door. Photo by Teresa Wood.

While the show plays with different fantastical scenarios, the crux of the drama is that Meg's (Alicia Grace) little brother Charles Wallace (David Landstrom) is dying due to a disorder of his farandolae. Her earthly friend Calvin (Vaughn Ryan Midder) and otherworldly friend Progo (Tyasia Velines) need to find a way to make him well. To do this, they must complete a series of tests from an ethereal cosmic instructor named Blajeny (Lynette Rathnam), fight an evil force called the Echthroi who are attempting to "X" or eliminate everything in the universe, and communicate with each other telepathically through a process called "kything." And finally, they must travel inside Charles Wallace's mitochondria to convince a particular farandolae called Sporos to "take root" and resist the chaotic influence of the Echthroi.

This is a lot to tackle in just 60 minutes, but the Kennedy Center's smart and heartfelt adaptation manages to crystallize the big ideas with time to spare for the grade school good stuff, from physical comedy to puppet dances. It's a bit ambitious, but A Wind in the Door gets the job done - part of the play's storytelling approach is to pepper in clearly formulated lessons about friendship, bravery, and loss, and while this might feel a bit didactic for adult audience members, it captures the spirit of L'Engle's prose.

A Wind in the Door is also just fun to look at: the costumes by Ivania Stack and puppets by Matt-a-Magical were dazzlingly fun. For a show with minimal set changes, it was visually lush enough to hold the attention of even the most Tik Tok-steeped elementary schooler. This was largely due to the combination of the absolutely breathtaking lighting design by Sherrice Mojgani and sound by Tosin Olufolabi.

Beyond the beautiful visuals and ambiance, the show was carried by a spectacular cast. Alicia Grace brought bubbly energy and warmth to the character of Meg, simultaneously capturing her childlike wonder and maturity beyond her years. Tyasia Velines held the audience in the palm of their hand as Progo - perhaps a poor characterization here, since Progo's hands are not palmed but rather take the form of additional heads, complete with snouts and wide eyes. Indeed, Velines made the unique physicality of this wondrous supernatural creature their own with charisma and (literal) panache. David Landstrom's endearing Charles Wallace embodied the boy genius in all his stuffy-nosed fragility. Vaughn Ryan Midder was delightful as Calvin, and Lynette Rathnam's Blajeny was captivating underneath a stunning costume that you have to see in person to fully experience.

Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center
Vaughn Ryan Midder, Alicia Grace, David Landstrom, Lynette Rathnam, and Tyasia Velines make up the dynamic ensemble cast of the Kennedy Center's A Wind in the Door. Photo by Teresa Wood.

One of Madeleine L'Engle's biggest talents is connecting the cosmic to the personal, and this synthesis between the vast and intimate is captured beautifully in Jacqueline Goldfinger's adaptation. While concepts like the importance of "taking root" and Meg's power to "name" people for who they are might seem a bit abstract for an elementary or middle schooler, A Wind in the Door makes big themes tangible and accessible without talking down to its audience.

The idea of love vanquishing darkness is not exactly radical, but it's not every day that the triumph of good over evil is depicted through squirming farandolae or the feather of a many-eyed heavenly being. In the world of A Wind in the Door, we all depend on each other to survive (no matter how many eyes we have), and whether we look out for one another can determine the fate of us all. It's a timeless lesson and one that couldn't be more important for the times we live in now.

Running time: 60 minutes

A Wind in the Door at the Kennedy Center is playing through September 11, 2021, and the production will be streaming later in the fall for school audiences. The show is recommended for ages 9 and up. Tickets are $20 per person, and you can go here to reserve your seat. Information about the Kennedy Center's Covid-19 requirements can be found here.




From This Author - Dara Homer

Dara Homer grew up reading, writing, and performing in plays and musicals in Miami, Florida. She graduated cum laude from Columbia University with a degree in English and Comparative Literature, and... (read more about this author)


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