KINGFISHER DAYS by Susan Coyne, directed by Albert Schultz, with Martha Burns, Coyne and Joseph Ziegler. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman). Runs to March 30, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$31, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Susan Coyne explores the power and wonder of a youngster's awakening imagination in Kingfisher Days, but the blend of theatre and nostalgia doesn't always work.Adapted from her childhood memoir of a special summer at the family cottage, the piece centres on the correspondence between the five-year-old Coyne and Nootsie Tah, a proud Peruvian fairy princess exiled to Lake of the Woods. Since Coyne can't read or write, her intermediary is Mr. Moir, a neighbour and retired English teacher with a poetic soul, a love of books and a knowledge of fairy lore.
In the wrong hands the material could be gaggingly cutesy, but Coyne -- playing child and narrator -- and director Albert Schultz give it an innocent charm. They're helped by Joseph Ziegler, whose Moir has solid warmth, and Martha Burns, who adds tartness to Nootsie Tah's whimsy. They also play Coyne's intellectual father and aphorism-spouting mother. Ken Garnhum's set and costumes, blending outdoor woodsiness and well-used cottage furniture, have their own magic.
The key problem is Coyne's frame, which introduces the tale with an intentionally self-conscious, overly precious monologue and later interrupts the action. The frame evokes the passage of time -- a theme in the work -- but its presentation is too arch.