note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
Way before the movie phenomenon that was BABE, E. B. White saved a cute, little pig from slaughter in the children’s classic, CHARLOTTE’S WEB (playing through May 10th at the Wheelock Family Theatre). Joseph Robinette’s stage adaptation features the resourceful spider and her best friend, the piglet, as she outwits the humans.
In director Jane Staab’s clever production, the animals (and the actors playing them) have free reign to cavort. Just watching Robert Saoud as Wilbur (prancing about the stage gobbling slop) is a delight, as is John Davin’s fabulously grumpy rat, and Yvonne Murphy and Gerald Slattery’s raucously repetitive geese, geese.
Staab gets lovely performances from the humans, too: Especially from Grace Brakeman as the plucky child who begs her father to spare Wilbur and from Wesley Taylor and Monique McIntyre as Wilbur’s kindly new owners. Every performance, right down to the tiniest baby spider, adds warmth to the story.
The production works best for the smaller children at its liveliest, when Templeton, the always hungry rat, rummages through the audience or when Wilbur leads everyone, including the geese, on a, well, wild goose chase. How could I, vegetarian that I am, not love a show which urges kids not to eat animals, to put up with their trying parents and ---my favorite lesson from Mr. White, delivered by a positively beatific Merle Perkins as Charlotte, “Bugs are smarter than people.”