After watching a fetching production of “The Floating Dolls – A Polish Folktale” at Talespinner Children’s Theatre, I have a strong desire to lift up Executive Artistic Director Alison Garrigan in the air like Simba on top of the celebration rock. Once again the Talespinner artisans have created another exquisite example of engaging, interactive, and educational theatre. Local playwright Toni K. Thayer has adapted a Polish Folktale into a sweet and funny script, with plenty of opportunities to engage the audience directly.
Baby Anatol is a cry baby. Literally. The histrionic cry machine has the parents at their wits end. The crying is represented by pounding on the ground, which is an effective and creative way to create the parental angst. Enter an Old Woman who has quite the bizarre solution to the problem. The parents find a doll in their house, and the Old Woman tells them if they make 8 more, for a total of 9, and give them away to other couples, Baby Anatol will stop crying. So the crying madness continues for the other couples. At the urging of the Old Woman, dolls are eventually sent down rivers to float away all around the world. This is one global initiative that has some severe side effects. These dolls were the first “gift that keeps on giving.”
Lauren B. Smith (Old Woman) must hang upside down after each performance to straighten out her body. Hunched over, Smith is a blast as she doles out her remedy for suffering parents, and for world domination. Debbie Keppler (Mama) and Ben Merold (Papa) are a delight. Their faces abound with energy and rigorous silliness. Hannah Storch (Village Mama) and Dan Rand (Village Papa) are two more examples of accomplished actors that create festive characters rich in comedic goodness. Richie Gagen (Fisherman) adds energy and precocious vigor to the proceedings. All of these actors turn out a fierce ensemble as well, whether dancing, singing, or engaging the young ones to create and participate along with them.
I had some favorite moments. The recreation of night after night crying, with some clever lighting, was a hoot. Watching the Old Woman scarf down food like a hungry packmaster out for a run with the wolves. Market time was a scream, as the parents stuff dolls in other unsuspecting parental units, as part of their own cure. And finally, when the Old Woman sentimentally explains that it is ok to let a baby cry.
Alison Garrigan did a great job as Director, but also designed the sets, and created some fantastic puppets for the production. Very creative and artistic pieces to add to the tale. Brittany Gaul created beautiful movement for the show, which greatly enhanced the charm of the piece. Stage Manager Tim Maca called a great show. Josh Heidinger nailed the Lighting Design for the show, creating festive and interesting looks. Melanie Boeman created some wonderful costumes for the show, very authentic and eye catching. Christina Pierce added to the magic and Set Design Intern and Scenic Artist.
This is a beautiful show, and a must see with your children. There is magic in this group of Talespinners.
$10-$15 General Admission
5209 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102