Thursday, September 15, 2016

ASF Interns: "Charlotte's Web"

Take it from the children in the audience: the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Acting Intern Company's delightful production of Charlotte's Web is a hit. From the questions the children asked at the talk-back session following the 1-hour and 15-minute play, they clearly demonstrated their enthusiastic engagement with story, character, and theme, and might just become the next generation of appreciative supporters of live theatre in Montgomery.

Dramatized by Joseph Robinette from E. B. White's classic 1952 novel, Charlotte's Web is deftly directed by Nancy Rominger in this encore production first presented at ASF in 2008, and comes complete with re-purposed storybook set and costume designs by Peter Hicks and Jennifer Ables respectively.

The story of a little pig, a runt named Wilbur, who is rescued from the slaughterhouse by a young girl named Fern, and taken to a farm where he is befriended by other animals who look after him -- especially spider Charlotte who weaves words onto her web to highlight Wilbur's good qualities and leads him to celebrity, and whose sacrifice for him is the strongest demonstration of selfless friendship.

Ms. Rominger and her eight ensemble actors retain White's charm while gently emphasizing his themes of the power of friendship, the need for loving relationships in all of us, and the significance of simple words and actions that have a power of their own. All this told with a light sense of humor through anthropomorphized characters...Wilbur the pig [Tirosh Schneider], Templeton the rat [Andre Revels], Goose [Kate Owens], Gander [Javon Q. Minter], Sheep [Justy Kosek], and the title character spider Charlotte [Ann Flanigan]...most of whom play other characters; they are abetted by actors portraying several of the humans of the story [Joshua Sottile and Joe O'Malley].

All but Mr. Revels and Mr. Schneider play multiple roles, both human and animal, with so many quick costume changes that one would think there is a much larger acting company on stage. There is no mention of "dressers" in the program, but they deserve a congratulatory note for a job well done. [When one child asked where one character was in the talk-back, the actor playing the role was in another disguise; part of the magic of theatre for the young audience member who believed completely in the actor's taking on the role so believably.]

The characters are so very likable through the actors' combined energies, their human characteristics recognizable to even the smallest child in the audience; and the genuine sincerity of the script is given full attention so that the play's messages are unmistakable: true friendship is a gift we can all both give and receive, and truly "a good life [may be] more important than a long one".