3/2/2018         A WRINKLE IN TIME                     Georgia Ensemble Family Stage Series   


****½  ( A )   



(NOTE:  I reviewed this production when it had its first public showing last fall.  I think my review bears repeating here.)

It was a dark and stormy night!

Such is the purposefully banal opening of Madeleine L’Engle’s totally un-banal 1962 book, A Wrinkle in Time, the young adult speculative fiction book that gave us the marvelously eccentric Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Which, and Mrs Who, not to mention the faster-than-light travel concept of the “Tesseract,” a “folding” of space and time that found its way into countless classics of science fiction ever after.

And now, Georgia Ensemble Family Stage Series sas given us an abridged version of  John Glore’s 2010 stage adaptation in which six chameleon-like actors give us Tardis-full of odd and alien characters as they tell us the story of Meg Murry’s quest for her father.  This same adaption was staged by Theatrical Outfit a few years ago to great effect (and, in fact, large portions of this essay are being lifted directly from my comments on that production).


As an ironic comment on the whole concept of “folding space-time,” (a major leitmotif of the work), I griped that the T.O. production may have been too short, too heavily-edited to do the story complete justice.  And yet, I liked this even shorter version more, as if editing the story down to child-friendly length somehow makes the story clearer, more imaginative, more rooted in the awesome wonder that is science.

Meg is a young girl of extraordinary intellect and even more extraordinary imagination.  She is lying in bed as the dark and stormy night rages around her.  The daughter of scientists, she can’t sleep, so she joins her genius little brother Charles Wallace for a cup of late-night cocoa.  Faster than you can say “too much exposition,” Meg, Charles Wallace, and an older schoolmate (Calvin O’Keefe), are “tesseracted” away to find Meg’s missing father.  Their guides are a trio of eccentric characters who hide in the guise of the dotty Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Which, and Mrs Who.  Their adventures take them into the heart of “the black” as they visit the mechanistically grim planet of Camazotz.  They find Father, but lose Charles Wallace during their escape to a kinder, gentler planet, where the nurturing Aunt Beast obscurely leads them to the path of happily ever after.

This is, of course, an over-simplification of an insanely imaginative story, and there’s a lot of story to squeeze into this brisk ADD-friendly one act, with nary a breath-taking pause before we are confronted with a new wrinkle in plot, a new creature breaking the bizarro-tron scale, a new narration sequence to fill us in on what we’ve just missed.  And, unlike the more adult version, we’re never left in doubt as to who’s who, which’s what, and what just happened.

Constructed in the Nicholas-Nickleby style of tight-ensemble-giving-narration-while-flitting-from-character-to-character, the script relies on our listening (and imagining) abilities, but, this is a style I’ve always enjoyed, and here, the ensemble is small and talented and makes the story-telling look easy.

Maybe I have an advantage because I (more or less) went in knowing the story, so I find it difficult to judge how smoothly this adaptation goes down to the uninitiated (and the very young).  But, if I am any judge of audience, this very enthusiastic (but criminally tiny) audience loved it as much as did I.  I especially enjoyed the perception and intelligence showed by the young questioners in the post-show Q&A session.  So many questions from young readers about why was {Insert your Favorite Moment From the Book Here} left out!

The costuming by Erin Smith is especially impressive and eccentric, particularly the neck-tie heavy outfit worn by Mrs. Whatsis that magically transforms into long and diaphanous wings when she “becomes” Aunt Beast.  Projections and small set pieces convincing fit into the space’s Driving Miss Daisy set, cleverly employing bits of stage magic to tell the tale.  It looks slightly different than the fall staging, simply because the Miss Daisy set overlap is a clear blue sky and little else.  It helps when the main stage show has a simple set!

And what a cast!  The G.E.T. apprentice company is joined by a pair of more experienced folk to create a six-person ensemble, all of whom create a marvelous array of characters, regardless of age and gender and species.  Chris E. Ciulla, Christopher Holton, Alex Renee Hubbard, Jacob Jones, Amy L. Levin, and Dayanari Umana are talents to watch.  I have already praised their work in the 9 to 5 ensemble, and ALL of this Season's “Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA)” offerings.

So, in the final analysis, all the critters and creatures and phantasmagoria are merely props and hurdles in what is essentially the story of a girl in a quest to find her Daddy, and to reunite her family.  As fun as the Science Fiction trappings are, it’s the heart and soul of Meg Murry that provide the heart and soul of this play, and it’s the heart and soul of this ensemble and production team that makes it all work.  Director Laurel Crowe has an obvious knack for telling stories enjoyed by young and old alike, and this adds another “win” to her quickly-becoming-overwhelming list of successful TYA stagings.

Ms. L’Engle returned to the Murry and O’Keefe families many times throughout her career, never failing to create a tale that excited the imagination even as it warmed the heart.  This is, in fact, a perfect play to watch with a daughter or a Daddy.  And, in my humble opinion, can be enjoyed by anyone who was ever part of a family.  Or whoever looked at the sky and thought, “I wonder!”

     -- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com   @bk_rudy    #GETTYA   #WrinkleInTime)


There are two more performances this time around (Saturday 3/9 and 3/16).  And Then They Came for Me receives two public performances this week, and Junie B Jones is Not a Crook returns for three public showings in April.  And, of course, all TYA productions will be touring various school venues over the course of the year.

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