10/26/2019 AESOP'S FABLE Georgia Ensemble Theatre Family Stage
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Welcome to Fableton. It is the day before the Animalympics, and something is amiss. It seems that the popular “fastest rabbit alive” has been beaten in a race by a turtle. This requires a detective, and Squeaks just may be the mouse for the job!
Such is the set up for Aesop’s Fables, a new adaptation (for the young) by Alex Koceja. This is the initial (public) offerings of Georgia Ensemble’s 2019/2020 Family Stage Repertory (**) and was commissioned by G.E.T. for that purpose. As in previous years, a group of young actors play a plethora of (mostly) non-human characters, with quick-change costuming and hand-puppets letting them razzle-dazzle us, even letting them sometimes play two characters at once.
The focus of Mr. Koceja’s script is not to recreate “Aesop’s Greatest Hits,” but to tell a new tale, set in Aesop’s recognizable world, only obliquely referring to specific tales and quickly coming to a moral that’s relevant and easily digestible by preschoolers (and beyond). And, the (criminally) small audience at Saturday’s performance was filled with small happy faces and the sound of small happy laughter.
On the other hand, in my (probably less-than-popular) opinion, it may be a little less than memorable for anyone whose last birthday had double digits, or for anyone with a fondness for Aesop’s CONCISE moralizing. (Here, the moral is a complex and unfocused appeal to friendship and cooperation and compromise and tradition and … well, other stuff. In other words, Mr. Koceja’s story pales in comparison to anything from the Aesop (and pseudo-Aesop) oeuvre.
Yes, the characters were nicely drawn – a shy porcupine, a cranky snake, an ADHD-riddled bee, the mousy detective, the liony mayor, the rabbit, the turtle, a bevy of mountain goats who like climbing roofs, a herd of sheep who won’t shut up, the reporter … Wait a minute! There’s a reporter? Of course there is.
Still, Aesop’s Fables is nicely co-directed by Laurel Crowe and Michael Vine, with a clever set by Stephanie Polhemus that quickly morphs into many indoor and outdoor locales (and can easily be packed up and moved from school to school). The repertory company – and I am really looking forward to their work throughout the year -- includes Patricia de la Garza, Allen Dillon, Ryan Duda, Adam Hobbs, Kayla McCaffrey, and Maddie Steele.
And, indeed, the kids really seemed to like the play, parents will definitely appreciate its short running time (less than an hour), and, perhaps, it will inspire families to take another look at the original fables themselves.
And that’s the true moral of this production!
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com @bk_rudy #getAesopsFables #getFamilyStage)
** This year’s repertory includes Schoolhouse Rock Live, Tuck Everlasting, and And Then They Came for Me. Aesop’s Fables will have public performances every Saturday until November 9, Schoolhouse Rock Live in January and April, Tuck Everlasting from February 22 – March 7, and And Then They Came for Me on March 1 only.