A friendship between two of the world's largest creatures? Animals who befriend one another in a miserable circus setting and then plot their adventurous escape? The story is unlikely, sure. But the audience is quickly drawn into the tale of two disgruntled circus animals and their unpredictable journey in the Chicago Children's Theatre The Elephant and The Whale production produced in collaboration with Frank Maugeri of Redmoon.
The audience is first introduced to a charming gang of circus folk (complete with the coolest bicycle-operated panoramic apparatus you've ever seen). Due to their dire financial state, the family reluctantly parts with their beloved elephant Ella who falls into the hands of an unscrupulous circus operator (be warned: this character is a bit intense for little theater-goers).
As Ella plots an escape from her sad new gig, she discovers an unlikely friend in a landlocked and homesick baby whale. This is where the story really takes off.
Together, these best buds plan to return the baby whale back to the sea. Although the journey back home requires the viewer to suspend their sense of reality (because it is a long trip from Chicago back to the sea), audience members are treated to a visual and audio spectacle courtesy of shadow puppets, unique songs and other clever staging techniques.
The four feature performers certainly earn their pay by constantly rushing across the stage to crank audio devices, pedal panoramic painting apparatuses, manipulate shadow puppets, sing songs and otherwise use their talents to bring visual magic to this compelling tale.
The pace of the show is frenetic and unexpected.
Performances of The Elephant and The Whale run through May 26. The show is about one hour long. Regular single tickets start at $26 for children and $36 for adults and are available through www.chicagochildrenstheatre.org or by calling (872) 222-9555.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.