Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Enchanted Doll"

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note: entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

"The Enchanted Doll"
A Russian Cinderella

Script by Susan Ackley
Directed by Reggie Osborne

Rod & Hand Puppets by Will Cabell
Hand Puppets by Susan Achley
Sets by Cabell & Bill Cochran
Costume Design by Mary Trask
Painting Design by Candace Maher

Performed by
Will Cabell
Caroline Nesbitt
Music by Candace Maher

The very first piece of live theater I experienced was a puppet show, and I still remember it. That memory may have something to do, sixty years later, with my continual willingness to accept theater as real. I hope so, because it may imply that at least some of the couple dozen or so kids who sat in rapt, respectful attention before the Russian Cinderella story "The Enchanted Doll" out at Arlington's Underground Railway Theater tonight may grow up as lucky as I am.

These eyes are older, and they remember years with the KuklaPolitan Players and "Lili" and "Carnival" and "Coppelia" and Bread & Puppet. When Baba-Yaga's house prances in on long yellow chicken-legs they know it's really not a house but a hand-puppet stage worn by a person. They can see the metal rod working the hand of huge, horrible Baba-Yaga as she menaces the little heroine. They can pause to speculate on how the shadow-puppet beasts must have been made, or why the Czar might want a wife who can weave cloth, or whether the nesting-doll from her dead mother should magic-away every problem so easily. They have become a critic's eyes.

Children's eyes are much more forgiving, more accepting, more believing, and more blessed. For them the narrator cat poked through a green umbrella is, just as he says he is, hidden in the leaves of a tree. The imperious step-mother stealing our heroine's weaving to make her own daughter Czarina, her order that a candle must be borrowed from the most fearful ogress in the forest, the iron teeth and flying unkempt hair of the witch, and the matter of fact calm of the precious little doll --- all these are, to children's eyes, the realities of story.

So what if they take you backstage after the performance to show there were three different doll puppets and not one. So what if the colorfull horsemen of dawn and of day and of night that vaulted through the sky look like flat carboard seen from the back. So what if a woman in chickenleg-colored stockings stands next to the witch's house our heroine was forced to clean. The magic of its making is as fascinating as the magic of the story itself. And some children are lucky enough to experience both.

Maybe some day they may grow up to be critics, and get to see theater every week of their lives, and for free!


"Enchanted Doll: A Russian Cinderella" (till 13 December)
41 Foster Street, ARLINGTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide