Elden Street Players Theatre for Young Audiences presents Something Different 2013, an annual production of fables and folklore for children. This year’s choices were Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Ducking, Joel Chandler Harris’ How Br’er Rabbit Saved Br’er Wolf, and Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephant Child, among others.
This will be the 17th season at Elden Street Players for writer/director Holly Harrington and her Something Different troupe, comprised of Lindsay Day, Anne Kight Lloyd, Vanessa Moir, Paul Rubenstein, Caitlin Tuohy, and Marie Turner. Dressed in matching black pants and colorful t-shirts with the name of their production emblazoned on them, they use improvisation and physical comedy to shake up some classic stories. Marty Sullivan’s set consists of colorful boxes scattered around a large panel decorated with some scribbled trees. Like the set, the costumes by Kathy Dunlap are also simple, as each troupe member plays multiple roles and has to switch between his/her characters quickly. This includes accessories like felt bills for ducks, wolf and rabbit ears, and Slinkys used for elephant trunks.
Anne Kight Lloyd narrates, with regular interruptions from the troupe, who insist on trying “something different,” the first twist shown when a pig cracks out of The Ugly Ducking’s egg instead of a swan. Jill refuses to tumble after Jack, Little Miss Muffett shows an appetite for spiders instead of fear, and after Kathy Dunlaps fall, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men had scrambled eggs for breakfast again!” The lesser-known tales are kept to condensed versions of the original, such as The Elephant Child, which tells a tale about a baby elephant full of “satiable curiosity,” which leads him on a journey full of questions that ultimately leads to the answer of how elephants came to have such long trunks. How Br’er Rabbit Saved Br’er Wolf is a tale of trickery and trust, and The Boy Who Wanted a Friend follows an uppity young fellow who thinks that regular children are unworthy of his friendship, and searches for a friend among the animal kingdom.
A lot of stories are packed into one little hour, and the troupe is energetic and enthusiastic. However, I was disappointed that the set and costumes were particularly underwhelming, and the hurried, exaggerated nature of the performances a bit overwhelming. An attempt of audience interaction was made, but in the form of an actor squeezing her way through the cramped rows of children and parents, which seemed more awkward and intrusive than fun.
For a reviewer who has given every Theatre for Young Audiences‘ productions consistent raves, I was, unfortunately, underwhelmed by this performance. Despite that, it was nice to see several children enjoying themselves.
Something Different 2013 plays through April 7, 2013 at The Industrial Strength Theatre – 269 Sunset Park Drive,in Herndon, VA. For tickets, call (703) 481-5930, or order them online.