note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Carl A. Rossi
Mother Goose (our Good Fairy) . Erin Brehm
Sunnyside (a magical Goose) . Robin Eldridge
Frostbite (a Hench Yeti) . Amy Meyer
Old Icicle (the Demon King) . Matthew Woods
The Three Blind Mice (the Ones Who See All) . Mauro Canepa, Sam Eckmann & Jesse Wood
Little Miss Muffett (Maid-of-All-Work) . Denise Drago
Old King Cole (Once & Future Merry Old Soul) . Mikey DiLoreto
The Queen of Hearts (his Wife) . Jenny Reagan
The Princess Mary Mary (their Daughter) . Christina Malanga
Mother May I (the King's Maiden Twin) . Kiki Samko
Tom Tom (Principal Boy & Piper's Son) . Molly Kimmerling
Old Mother Hubbard (Dame) . Derek Fraser
Jack B. Nimble & Jack B. Quick) . Christopher Nourse & Jesse Wood
Eensie Weensie (the Spider) . Sam Eckmann
Humpty Dumpty (Clown) . Jull Rogati
Simpe Simon (Every Family Has One) . Michael Underhill
Tray (the Wonder Dog) . Mauro Canepa
The holidays are over but, snow-wise, Boston's winter season hasn't begun; adults wondering how to entertain children in such barren weather may welcome some truly LIVE theatre: Imaginary Beasts' winter-pantomime THE HALF-BAKED & HARD-TO-SWALLOW HISTORY OF HUMPTY DUMPTY, or ONE EGG IS ENOUGH! done in traditional British-style at the BCA (the Beasts' first Boston engagement) - grand fun that will silence even the most boisterous child, that is, when the tot isn't cheering the Goodies or booing the Baddies (upon request, of course). "Pantomime" in this context does not mean silence and gestures - no, British panto is a quite-verbal burlesque of classic fairy tales, laced with songs, topical humor, and groaner-jokes - the hero is traditionally played by a woman; the grand dame roles, by men - audiences of all ages will enjoy HUMPTY DUMPTY so much that they may not realize they are also being given a theatre-history lesson, as faithful and stylized as commedia dell'arte or Noh theatre. As soon as I saw a grinning, bow-tied moon in the center of the portable proscenium and heard a chamber prelude of "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life", I began to relax before the houselights dimmed (six degrees: "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" = Victor Herbert = "Babes in Toyland" = British pantomime = Imaginary Beasts = HUMPTY DUMPTY) - later, when the title character appeared costumed a la American clown George L. Fox (1825-1877), the Beasts could do no wrong in my eyes: they had done their homework, bless 'em! Apart from a mild-blue reference to a certain pop star, HUMPTY DUMPTY's humor is child-friendly yet witty enough for adult palettes - the plot is pure silliness in synopsis but not at all gooey in performance: the evil Icicle King has planted a giant egg on top of Old King Cole's castle: should that egg fall and break, eternal winter shall spread over the kingdom - in addition, the King's wicked twin sister has machinations of her own, the hero goes on a noble quest to bring back springtime, and three couples pair off in matrimony at the end. HUMPTY DUMPTY runs a half-hour longer than it should but if grade-schoolers can sit (or lie) there, enchanted by Live Theatre, why should this greybeard grumble?
The ensemble offers several amazements: first, HUMPTY DUMPTY boasts seventeen (17) actors - when was the last time you saw seventeen actors, together, on one stage? Second, though they be young (20s, on average) these actors are, by and large, impressive troopers - and how hand-in-glove to hitch themselves to an art form that demands energy, nimbleness and tireless lungpower; I soon began to (mentally) assign members to future Shakespeare, Feydeau or Gilbert & Sullivan productions - yes, they are that good and therefore I need not single out some over others. I commend co-directors/actors Matthew Woods & Michael Underhill for keeping American slapstick at a minimum (British pantos' humor stems from the music hall), and the proof of their drawing out the best from each actor is that you could yell "freeze!" at any time and snap a photo-worthy study of facial expressions and postures. Cotton Talbot-Minkin's storybook costumes are both fresh and iconographic and Jill Rogatti has designed some clever-clever hand puppets. This was my first encounter with the Beasts and wonder how HUMPTY DUMPTY would fare with an all-adult audience - no doubt, the company would bring out the wondering child in them - oh, no, they won't? "OH, YES, THEY WOULD!"
Another lesson can be had in watching the audience's children, rapt in HUMPTY DUMPTY's magic: how attuned children are to the soul's moral workings - how quick they are to divide right from wrong - to HELL with politically correct entertainments: children don't want to be coddled or diverted - they demand enlightenment and rules (unlike many adults, today, they don't WANT to stay children, forever) - children WANT to be challenged and frightened (provided righteousness prevails in the end) - and Imaginary Beasts fulfills those requests, handsomely. Should you miss their HUMPTY DUMPTY, fear not: the Beasts will be back in June .