[originally published: http://aislesay.com/CHI-VELVETEEN.html]
THE VELVETEEN RABBIT
by Margery Williams
Adapted by Elise Kauzlaric
Directed by Jenifer Tyler
Lifeline Theatre KidSeries
6912 N. Glenwood / (773) 761-4477
Through February 4, 2007
Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee December 17, 2006
Pull your copy of Margery William‘s “The Velveteen Rabbit” off your library shelves, close your eyes, and recall hearing the words while staring at the beautiful Arts and Crafts illustrations as a child. Or, remember the delight of examining each page of original art by William Nicholson while slowing reading the pages yourself if like me you came to this book as a young adult. Are you there yet? Imagine what dreamy and evocative music might nicely accompany this adventure in imagination and what curtains and costumes might be used to paint the scene. Decide which characters would be portrayed and precisely how. Now, trust me that this dream has come to life in a new KidSeries production at Lifeline Theatre and laugh, cry, shout, wonder, and believe your way through the process of becoming real.
Director Jenifer Tyler and adaptor Elise Kauzlairc have identified the theatrical core elements of this sweet and gentle story of love and belief and jealousy and acceptance and danger and resolution. Original music and sound design by the masterful Victoria DeIorio touches at classical phrasing and cinematic transitions in a delightful way. We are in no particular time and in every time in her beautiful soundscape.Elizabeth Powell Shaffer‘s costumes are flexible and evocative, rewarding those who know the original illustrations (how she deals with human legs in a costume that illustrates a toy bunny stuffed as a seated creature without hind legs is masterful), yet knowledge of the original images is not necessary to appreciate the perfect costumes on all the characters. And Rebecca Hamlin has created a set that morphs from child bedroom to backyard woodlands through the use of filmy scrim-y curtains with patterns evoking Nicholson’s original illustrations.
Our story is of a set of toys and their relationship to a young child, and their relationships with one another. This story predates the movie “Toy Story” by several decades, creating a similar world of toys in a child’s bedroom, with a society humans don’t see, and a pecking order in relation to their closeness to their human child. The oldest toy, the Skin Horse (Paul Myers), is the voice of wisdom, saving this tale from being a dark and lonely journey for our Velveteen Rabbit (Cheryl Lynn Golemo) on his way be becoming Real. The Skin Horse reminds the Velveteen Rabbit not to worry about the bells and whistles and mechanical details that the other toys brag about. He reminds the Rabbit that “the Boy doesn’t care about such things.” The Boy (Brian Plocharczyk) is innocent and eager and gentle and loving and Real himself.Alice Pacyga creates a Toy Soldier and the Boy’s Nana/nanny who are truly memorable, delightfully suggesting British comedian Dawn French. Hanlon Smith-Dorsey portrays a delightful Toy Boat as well as a Doctor who are equally memorable.
This is a story of life lessons, staying true, believing in others believing in you, innocence, and simplicity. The Velveteen Rabbit asks the Skin Horse at one point “What is REAL? … Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” The Skin Horse strings the shades of the following life lessons over several scenes in this adaptation: “Real isn’t how you are made, it’s a thing that happens to you…. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
So, read the original and if you have time this holiday season, regardless of your age, wander over to Lifeline Theatre and cry a little and rejoice in this very human story of belief in love and connection.
© Martha Wade Steketee (December 17, 2006)