Thursday, September 24, 2015

theatre review - SIDWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL - Childsplay - September 20, 2015

Angelica Howland, Tommy Strawser, and Jon Gentry
photo: Tim Trumble
Click here for more information on this production that runs through October 18th.

"Most of us have experienced our share of good teachers and bad ones throughout our educational years. Childsplay opens their 2015/2016 season with a comedy featuring two extremely different educators, one of the absolute worst and one of the best teachers ever. The wild and whacky Sideways Stories from Wayside School, based on the books by Louis Sachar, has many gifted Childsplay regulars in the cast, spirited direction, and colorful, inventive design elements. Childsplay scores again with this high-spirited and fun production.  Wayside School had a bit of an issue during its construction. Supposed to be a one-story school with thirty class rooms, the builder misread the plans, and built the school vertically instead of horizontally, so the school is now 30 stories tall......the kids on the 30th floor are ruled by a witch of a teacher, Mrs. Gorf, who likes to turn unruly students into apples, with plans to bake them into a pie...While the story does get a little dark in the middle of the second act, it is entrenched in a playful sense, so even smaller children shouldn't be too frightened. ...the cast and creative elements are top notch. Jon Gentry is deliciously evil as Mrs. Gorf...Debra K. Stevens is sublime as the always chirpy Mrs. Jewls, having a sweet and sunny disposition, full of sincerity, as well as a clear and strong desire to teach her kids and teach them well....As the kids in the class, Tommy Strawser, Katie McFadzen, Yolanda London, Michael Thompson, and Angelica Howland all shine, and are appropriately childlike with exaggerated expressions and excitement about the events unfolding around them. They all have a lot of fun with the playful, mysterious elements of the script. Strawser is especially comical as the conflicted Myron, the young boy who is obsessed with touching McFadzen's character's long pigtails. Eric Boudreau is hilarious as Louis, the yard teacher, who has the casual, laid back delivery and accent of a California surfer dude.  Director Dwayne Hartford plays up the mysterious moments without ever letting it get too spooky, and instills plenty of fun in the playful moments. ...Brimming with fun characters, and whacky, supernatural plot points, as well as the always important message about the value of working together as a team, Sideways Stories from Wayside School is a great start to Childsplay's 39th season."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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