PINOCCHIO by Carlo Collodi, adapted by Eleanor Albanese, directed by David S. Craig, with Christine Brubaker, Robin Craig, Tony De Santis, Ingrid Rae Doucet, Andrew Moodie and Ashley Thomson. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to March 16, Saturday 2 and 7 pm (March 1 at 2 pm only), Sunday 11 am and 3 pm, special schedule March 11-16. $18-$28. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Forget Disney's sentimental version of Pinocchio or even Roberto Benigni's dreadful recent feature film. The original Carlo Collodi story is far darker. You know things are different when the just-carved wooden boy flings himself joyfully around Geppetto's small house and steps on the cricket. No conscience-tweaking Jiminy Cricket here.Eleanor Albanese's adaptation of the tale has its slow moments and could be more biting, but talented director David S. Craig gives the text energy by playing up its commedia dell'arte elements, including masks and zany, broad comedy.
Trish Leeper's masks and puppets -- rod, string and shadow -- are entrancing combined with Glenn Davidson's sets and lighting. Teresa Przybylski's costumes and Allen Cole's folk-inspired songs make colourful additions.
But it wouldn't work if we didn't believe in and care about the characters, beginning with Ingrid Rae Doucet as the voice and manipulator of the wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy. The other actors play multiple characters, with Christine Brubaker and Andrew Moodie exuberant standouts as the conniving cat and fox who take in the gullible Pinocchio. There's real heart in Tony De Santis's Geppetto, and clever humour in Robin Craig's impresario of a puppet master.
Kids and parents are both drawn into the totally engaging second act and its magical underwater scenes (one's in the belly of a monster shark), and the moving transformation at the show's end, once Pinocchio learns that other people are as important as his own wants. By the end, both Pinocchio's and the show's hearts are beating strongly.