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BWW Review: GRUG AND THE RAINBOW at Kennedy Center

BWW Review: GRUG AND THE RAINBOW at Kennedy Center
L-R Nathan O'Keefe, Grug and Ellen Steele. Photo by Shane Reid.

Kids are bombarded with big flashy images in pretty much every form of entertainment nowadays. Those of us that grew up with theatre for young audiences (TYA) companies such as New Jersey's Pushcart Players remember how storytelling used to drive the production as opposed to spectacle driving the story. For those of you that want to introduce your children to a kinder and gentler piece of theatre, get over to the Kennedy Center this weekend for Grug and the Rainbow as presented by Windmill Theatre Co from Adelaide, Australia.

Based on a series of books by Aussie author Ted Prior and devised for the stage by Windmill, Grug (represented as a puppet) is a guy who is curious about everything in the world around him. Anyone who started his life as the grassy top of a Burrawang tree would be. One day after seeing a rainbow, Grug decides he wants one of his own. What follows are several vignettes involving each color of the rainbow that Grug encounters. One of the performers pulls the color from an audience member's clothing or from the set onto a paintbrush. The vignettes feature, for example, a yellow snake who drives an ambulance, a blue flower, and a house that Grug paints green.

The trio of performers - Ellen Steele, Matt Crook and Nathan O'Keefe - deliver the tales of Grug at a leisurely pace as opposed to overplaying the material. This approach is a wise choice on the part of Director Sam Haren. I attended a school performance and the show held the audience's attention from beginning to end.

Tamara Rewse's puppets are creatively designed. Grug is a cross between a furry hut and, for those who remember the cartoon from the 70's, Captain Caveman.

Jonathan Oxlade's minimal, but imaginative set consists of three units covered in carpet-like material, which depicts three hills.

Overall, Grug and the Rainbow, presented by Windmill Theatre Co., is a delight. Take the family and enjoy TYA as it once was!!

Running Time: 35 minutes with no intermission.

Grug and the Rainbow plays March 18 and 19, 2017 in the Family Theater at The Kennedy Center which is located at 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, click here.

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