Lifeline’s Thumbelina’ brings both heart and courage to a familiar tale

“I carry your heart within my heart.” This theme, drawing heavily from both the E.E. Cummings poem and the soul song of each and every parent, is the driving force behind Lifeline’s beautiful new production of “Thumbelina” (adapted and directed by ensemble member Amanda Delheimer Dimond, in collaboration with Mariana Green, Brandi Lee and Liz Rice).

If you go

Runs through Nov. 27, 2016

Lifeline Theatre

6912 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago

www.lifelinetheatre.com

 

Also new in this show? Delheimer Dimond and crew have upended Hans Christian Anderson’s traditional story arc of Thumbelina, who usually goes from one situation to the next where she’s kept, scurried away, married off and told where, when and how to be.

This version is refreshingly modernized, progressive and chock full of girl power.

Thumbelina, a tiny bit of a thing born from a flower planted by her mother (who’s grieving the loss of her partner and the future she had planned), wants to experience the wonder of The Outside. But, having lost enough already, her well-meaning mother decides that the best way to keep her girl safe is to forbid any contact with the dangerous things outside their home’s window. But, you know, things happen.

Thankfully, the storyline is less about whom Thumbelina will eventually marry, and more about the choices she makes along her path to self-discovery, and the concept that “family” can be the one you create. As she journeys into the forest and river around her, she comes into contact with terrific characters who, for their part, don’t walk so much as crawl, tumble, spin and weave their way up ropes. Both the staging and choreography are lovely, and create another sort of beautiful language in the fluid world which Thumbelina explores. The puppetry is also top notch, and the alter-ego of teeny tiny Thumbelina pleading her case to her non-yielding mother might be the sweetest thing you’ll see this season. Brandi Lee, an exceptional Thumbelina, is joined by a connected and physically fantastic cast, consisting of Bryan Bosque, Antoniao LaVance Boule Jr., Nate Buursma, Krystal Ortiz and Dominique Watkins.

The role of a parent–and what it means, exactly, to “parent” as a verb–weaves surprisingly well through a story not usually quite so sentimental. Or maybe it just hit me like a ton of bricks as I watched with my two enthralled daughters: You need to raise the child you have, not the child you imagined you’d have.

As parents, we want our children to fly. As parents, we want our children to be safe, always. And as parents, we want our children to know that bonds and love transcend time, space, distance and the confines of a little ol’ human heart.

And just like Thumbelina, they’ll figure out the rest.

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