Who hasn’t had a dream of grand adventures? Who hasn’t had their head in the clouds once too often? And who among us can honestly state that they’ve never–not even once–hoped to meet a real, live penguin? Lifeline Theatre’s warm new production of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (adapted by Robert Kauzlaric from Richard and Florence Atwater’s novel) tells the tale of a guy for whom all three statements ring true. A house painter by trade, Mr Popper and his wife fret about money in already lean times as he approaches his “off” season. This, of course, doesn’t stop him from eagerly tuning into radio news of his favorite polar explorer–or just as eagerly awaiting a polar surprise via U.S. Mail.
If you go
Runs through Dec. 13, 2015
6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60626
Stories Come Alive! Hour every Saturday and Sunday throughout the run.
The cast of four, under the tight direction of Paul S. Holmquist, does a fantastic job of zipping the action (and scenery and beautiful puppets) along. Josh Bernaski and Amanda Roeder are terrific (and wear many hats) as the characters who populate the Poppers’ town of Stillwater and beyond. Heather Currie’s Mrs. Popper is great as the supportive, long-suffering and ultimately (and unequivocally) devoted wife. Mr. Popper, played earnestly and affably by Jonathan Schwart, is an entirely root-able protagonist, and the kind of pal any penguin would be honored to have.
Mr. Popper, his penguins and their predicament are a throwback to a bygone era; a nod to a gentler time when radio ruled the land and the news of the day was spread over the back fence. That said, the story more than resonated with my 6- and 4-year-olds. They didn’t need Google to translate what an icebox was, nor did they question why folks would choose to sit around in the evening and wait for a show to begin. (One you had to listen to, at that!) Maybe they were able to immerse themselves in this beautifully vintage world because of Lifeline’s thoughtful curating of the Poppers’ cozy home. Perhaps it was due to the charming and funny songs (composed by Music Director George Howe) and timeless Vaudevillian humor. Or it might just be because, if you suspend your disbelief enough, there’s a good chance someone will mail you your very own penguin from the North Pole.
In which case I’ll eagerly join those ranks.