To know Bill Hoffmann, is to love him. Hoffmann is a theatrical force that was at the center of the golden age of Children’s Theatre during his tenure at The Cleveland Play House. It was there he met another amazing talent, and just as revered, Eric Schmiedl. Both an accomplished performer and playwright, the two often collaborated on truly masterful and entertaining pieces of theatre. The dynamic duo is at it again with a fascinating production of “Huck Finn Comes Down River”, adapted by Schmiedl, from Mark Twain’s novel “Huck Finn.” This historic American work, the intended sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, has been praised, studied, criticized and banned over the decades since it was published in the U.S. in 1885. However, the adventures of Huck and Jim, as they ply their way down the Mississippi, remain an essential part of the American experience and, on The Lantern Theatre stage, these memorable characters and many more will be portrayed by Valerie Kilmer and Chennelle Harris.
At the beginning of the show, Director Hoffmann and Playwright Schmiedl, strum on their guitars and croon an old folk song, with luscious harmonies, that definitely create the mood. Then Hoffmann takes a few moments to introduce the Big, Red Barn to everyone and shares interesting facts and stories about the place. The proper show begins seamlessly, as another folk tune brings on the actors. What is interesting about this show, is every character, including the narration, is portrayed by two gifted actors. Kilmer (Huck) and Harris (Jim) are the principle storytellers, but both actors weave in and out of narration and characterization in spectacular fashion. Schmiedl himself provides a folk ballad soundtrack to the proceedings, along with all the sound effects. Kilmer and Harris are a fine tuned theatrical machine that never misses a beat, and keeps the kids and adults transfixed on their journey. Schmiedl provides the musical canvas for these artists to weave their tale. It is a heck of a lot of fun.
It is certainly worth of trip to The Lantern Theatre. Being my second barn experience this past weekend, I am really getting into this stuff.
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