For someone with a bachelor's degree in film and video studies, sometimes I can get on a high horse about my theatrical indulgences. Surprisingly, going to see a kids' play proved to be a refreshing break from my normal theatrical hob-snobbery.
The experience helped take me back to the simpler things in life: reveling in the cuteness of little kids trying really hard and laughing at the funny little things that happen by sheer accident. After awhile, nothing seemed more important than being part of an effort to help support a community project like this one.
The Jr. Woodland Players is a group designed to give children an opportunity to be creative and productive during the summer months. The hard work and enthusiasm of the cast and crew is evident, though there is still room for improvement in this ambitious production.
The Oracle's Mouth is a comedy, jazz musical based in Greek mythology, infused with modern humor. It's an adventure that follows two orphaned children, Fallopian and Dorcus, on a search for their parents. A chorus of frogs helps narrate the tale with jazzy song and dance.
The script has its share of obvious strengths and weaknesses. The subplot centers on Zeus, played by Jacob L. Mayfield, and his love obsession with Io, a cow, played by Andrea Starr. (According to mythology, Zeus transformed one of his lovers into a cow to avoid his wife's jealous wrath.) This subplot provides for slapstick and weary cow-humor material. The true wit and original comedy that took the audience by surprise came later with the play's brightest talent, Meghan Rozell, as Hades, Goddess of the Underworld.
Hades is the incarnation of a high-strung, obsessive-compulsive office-manager from hell. In this interpretation, she has transformed the Underworld to run more efficiently, corporate style. Rozell plays her part to the max, giving the play most of its enthusiastic drama.
In one wonderful scene, she almost steals the show. Fallopian and Dorcus have entered the Underworld via the Oracle's mouth on their search for their parents. They, along with the chorus, are still trying to figure out the riddle given by the Oracle. Suddenly, Hades storms in, demanding answers: "Who are these people? What are they doing here? Where's their paperwork?" Everybody shuts up as she paces the stage, and this is when some true theater happens. Rozell, so entrenched in the reality of her character's situation, seems to transcend that golden moment when an actor stops acting and starts "being" in the moment. The audience, and all the other actors, were hanging on her next word and action.
Director John Fleming did a fine job of giving his young, talented cast all a moment to shine. I especially enjoyed his choice to have the three poet/philosophers played by three giggling girls. Hats off to a dedicated artistic crew who created some impressive props. The play was enlivened by a tightly rehearsed performance by Lexi Cutting on keyboard.