Roseneath Theatre 's David S. Craig deserves a crown for Danny, King Of The Basement . It's one of the best family theatre pieces around, hitting just the right notes in terms of entertainment and issues.
The tale of a boy forced by circumstances to move with his mother eight times in two years, the work touches on poverty, the sometimes unbearable pressure put on kids by their unthinking parents, the power of the imagination and how friendship can make difficult situations bearable.
The production is first-rate, too, with Jordan Pettle a fine, exuberant Danny, who turns himself into a superhero and creates fantasy worlds to escape his dismal reality of basement apartments and short-term shelters. He boasts that he can make a friend in a morning and a best friend in a day, but of course he's apt to lose both far too quickly.
As his mother, Jacklyn Francis grows into a warm, sympathetic figure who, though initially parented by her young son, develops a sense of maternal responsibility.
Audiences love Cliff Saunders 's goofy Angelo, whose father morphs into a dinosaur when his son doesn't make the grade in hockey games. Yanna McIntosh throws herself gleefully into the demanding, self-impressed Penelope, whose wealthy parents give her things instead of affection.
Director Richard Greenblatt 's often fast-paced production, on Andjelija Djuric 's bright set, lit by Glenn Davidson , doesn't stint on the script's comic or emotional moments. Even better, the production doesn't supply simple, happy-ending answers to tough questions.
The young viewers at the school performance we saw were never restless, and there's no better indicator for how well a work holds them. See Continuing, page 66.
Want more small-scale musical theatre in your life? Take advantage of Acting Up Stage Theatre 's Dark Night Cabaret series, which runs on the evenings when the company isn't presenting its latest current work, Elegies: A Song Cycle.
Four performers take over the Berkeley Theatre Upstairs for solo shows. The entertainers are Sarah Blair Irwin (February 20), Karen Coughlin (February 26) and Gabi Epstein (February 27). First up, though, is the splendid Bruce Dow (February 19), who's wowed us in productions of Guys And Dolls, Into The Woods and South Pacific at Stratford.
We've rarely seen a wilder night of theatre than that at Buddies inBad Times last Saturday, when five companies took to the stage topresent Carnal (The Ten Obstructions).
Ian Carpenter and Gil Garratt co-wrote a 10-minute script,a collage of dialogue that suggested a confrontation between twopeople in an intense sexual and emotional relationship. They thenturned the piece over to the five troupes to perform it one after theother.
But first they gave each company 10 different limitations on how thework could be presented. The groups had the right to change the scriptif they wanted, and were asked to leave something onstage for thefollowing company to incorporate into their scene.
The tonal differences from one piece to another were extraordinary.Project Undertow, asked to use music by Masaru Sato andseek inspiration from photographs, created a dance/theatre/Asianmartial arts piece for four clothed women and a man trussed up inclear plastic.
Surprise!'s Chad Dembski and Claire Calnan, forcedto offer their interpretation in black-and-white and incorporatemovement they've never studied, did a live video piece and finishedwith a ballroom dance.
Philip Shepherd's scene for Phyzikal Theatre was a sololit by candle and match. ("There must be a five-second fade up anddown" and "All blackouts must flicker.") Theatre Rusticleperformed in their trademark movement fashion, creating a wry,entertaining, chamber-music-like piece that relied on water andrepeated text.
Most fun of all was Studio 180's piece, with two NASA astronautsalternating between floating in space and fighting with two partnersin a different time/space reality. This was scored to "your parents'music" and involved "swapping roles in the middle of a character'sdialogue."
Let's do this kind of inventive evening again, please.