April 13, 2006



 Fun with potatoes

After reading the children’s book “Brave Potatoes,” by Toby Speed and Barry Root, I didn’t have high expectations for the play at Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the way James Grote adapted the story to the stage, and how the four actors transformed the book into performances that were very well done. Lifeline Theatre is known for taking original story text and transforming it into a play.

The plot revolves around Chef Hackemup needing a new soup recipe and three potatoes that compete to become the best potato in the state. Each potato has its own personality; Tom Jansson as Kenny the Kennebec spud is a shy, scared potato that transforms himself into a hero in the end. Roxanne Saylor plays Frances the female LaRouge Red potato that is outgoing and brave. Lastly, there is Jason Phillips as a Russet, a potato with a big ego but warm heart.

When the contest time arrives, the judge appears in the audience, dressed as a female in beads, pigtails and a dress. What made this even funnier was that the actor was a male. This was one of the many parts that actor Paul Myers played in the show and each one was a male. This was one of the many parts that actor Paul Myers played in the show and each one was filled with laughs.

The night after the contest, the potatoes escape from their show area and make a break to ride the Zip, the wildest attraction at the fair. This number was creatively choreographed and action filled.

When Chef Hackemup is ready to make his award-winning potato soup, he discovers there are no potatoes for the recipe. The determined chef goes looking them, and ends up at the fair, where he kidnaps the trio and brings them back to his kitchen. This part is very funny and well-written. Props such as the conveyor belt used to make soup and veggie hand puppets help the scene. The small set perfectly fit the atmosphere of the play and the theater.

I think the play was cute, but there are a few parts that move slow for older children. I think it is best suited for young kids, ages 4-5. Many children this age were in the audience, and they were always laughing and singing along with the actors.

The song lyrics by George Howe are very clever. My mom liked the play because of the clever writing, actors who were great in their parts and a playwright who took a very basic book and worked it into a funny, adorable children’s play.

Another reason that I like this play is because it had a moral. “Best friends bring out the best in you” is exactly why the whole play took place. Even though the audience knew what the outcome of the play would be, it was still fun to watch. In conclusion, this would be a nice, quick weekend activity for younger children. “Brave Potatoes” only lasts one hour, which is great for smaller kids. Allie Sakowicz, 11

“Brave Potatoes” runs through June 4 at Lifeline Theatre, KidSeries Programs. Saturday, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m. $9 in advance. Day of the show, pay what you can if seats are available. Children younger than 2 years old are not admitted to the theatre. 6912 North Glenwood Avenue, Chicago. (773) 761-4477. www.lifelinetheatre.com

   Alice in Wonderland a hit

Whenever I take my 5-year-old daughter, Larissa, to a play, I worry for the first 10 minutes. Will she be interested, or will she end up wriggling in her seat, frustrated and bored? She was delighted and transfixed by “Alice in Wonderland” at Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences in Lincolnshire.

This hour-long play moves forward at an energetic pace. Lewis Carroll’s original text has been neatly trimmed so children can enjoy the show without being overwhelmed by it. The format also invites children to participate. They can sing and clap along to the snappy show tunes, delivered flawlessly by the actors and orchestra. Fairness, manners and doing the right thing are at the heart of this story.

And at the play’s climax—the Knave’s trial—the audience is asked to serve as the jury. I enjoyed watching the children’s carefully weigh the testimonials from a procession of zany Wonderland characters. A very wicked Queen of Hearts listens closely to the children’s responses and delivers a verdict.

Each scene comes alive with an exuberant cast of beautifully costumed characters. My daughter trusted the sweetly assertive Alice to safely guide her through this world of strange and unfamiliar creatures. The actors wowed us with their interpretations of the smart, smart-aleky rabbit, the jazzy Cheshire cat and the silly rotund twins, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. Near the end of the play the jabberwocky, a majestic dragon-like creature, made a grand entrance and drew a collective sigh of appreciation from the audience.

My only complaint was that some of the characters in the play made allusions to pop culture figures such as Batman, SpongeBob Squarepants, Paula Abdul and (shopping at) Target that seemed gimmicky and took away from the story’s authentic humor and charm. Otherwise, I thought this production captured the fanciful spirit of the story and Larissa “loved it.” Emilija Novitovic

“Alice in Wonderland” runs through May 20 at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, 10 Marriott Dr., most weeks, Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. and Saturday, 11 a.m. Performances vary, call to check days and times. $10. (847) 634-0200. www.marriotttheatre.com.


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