Race: It’s an issue that fully grown adults still have trouble addressing correctly, so how best to open the lines for communication with the younger set? Well, if you go by Chicago Children’s Theatre’s thoughtful and sweet “My Wonderful Birthday Suit,” you’d let those very same kids lead the way.
Penned and directed by award-winning Chicago playwright and educator Gloria Bond Clunie — and inspired by author Michael Tyler and illustrator David Lee Csicko’s “The Skin You Live In” — this world premiere production is an honest take on the difference between tolerance and celebration.
The Land Beyond the Rainbow is where the story takes place, in the rainbow-hued home of Ooblahdee (Darci Nalepa), as she prepares a surprise birthday party with her best friend Ooblahdah (Wil Wilhelm) for newcomer to town Shebopshebe (Melanie Brezill) — her other best friend. Even though it’s a joyous occasion, tensions are high with jealousy and comparisons, but it’s when skin color is used as a dividing line that time in the rather cool and puppet-like Thinking Tree is needed.
Music, fuzzy friends and beautiful effects drive this gentle narrative, and remind us that it’s not enough to simply say you “don’t see color.” Instead, the show (whose childlike characters and physical manifestation of words could easily share PBS prime time slots) encourages the whole family to use our eyes and hearts to relate to each other, and takes us from acknowledging what makes us unique to accepting how that diversity makes our community special — and downright wonderful.
If you go:
Runs through Feb. 18, 2018
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s The Station
100 S. Racine Ave., Chicago