Hobbit happens fast

THE HOBBIT, by J.R.R. Tolkien, adapted by Kim Selody, directed by Jim Warren, with Herbie Barnes, Lorne Cardinal, Greg Kramer,.

THE HOBBIT, by J.R.R. Tolkien, adapted by Kim Selody, directed by Jim Warren, with Herbie Barnes, Lorne Cardinal, Greg Kramer, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Ruth Madoc-Jones, Alon Nashman, Michael Spencer-Davis and Jamie Williams. Young People’s Theatre (165 Front East). Runs to December 21, Saturday at 2 and 7 pm, Sunday 11 am and 3 pm (except November 12 gala at 3:30 pm). $18-$28, some pwyc. 862- 2222. Rating: NNN

In his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s epic prelude to The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Kim Selody captures the feel of adventure and quest that underlies the best works in the genre. But sometimes the play’s action moves so rapidly that characters and story details are lost.

A family stage version must necessarily trim down the story of hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ journey with a company of dwarves to reclaim their treasure and rightful home from the baleful dragon Smaug, but sometimes too much happens too quickly.

And apart from Bilbo, most of the other figures — notably the wizard Gandalf, who sets the events in motion, and Thorin, the dwarf leader — are little more than sketched in.

That’s not to fault director Jim Warren’s production, which draws out the comedy between the dwarves and Bilbo and keeps the action moving along smoothly in Glenn Davidson’s impressively stage-filling, multilevel set of caves, murky forests and mountain peaks, smartly lit by Bonnie Beecher, with costumes by Lori Hickling that distinguish among trolls, dwarves, goblins and elves.

But I miss a sense of grandeur and power from Lorne Cardinal’s Gandalf, and the fine Alon Nashman has little chance to characterize Thorin. Greg Kramer clearly carves out the insidious, repellent Gollum as a cross between a prehensile-footed amphibian and an arachnid, but his Smaug — simply a voice –is less impressive. The problem isn’t his acting, though, but rather budgetary restraint that defines Smaug as a blinking eye and a partial wing.

Best of all is Herbie Barnes’s delightfully comic and warm Bilbo, a wispy-haired, Munchkin-like figure who relinquishes his mantra, a list of comforting breakfast foods, when he discovers his own inherent bravery.

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