Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play!
Children's Theatre Company
Review by Kit Bix | Season Schedule

Also see Kit's review of Waiting for Waiting for Godot and Arty's reviews of The Children and The Liar and coverage of 12th Annual Ivey Awards


Christopher Richardson and
Shina Brashears

Photo by Dan Norman
Mo Willems is an extremely productive, highly successful, and frequently awarded children's book author (three Caldecott Honors, two Geisel Medals, five Geisel Honors, three Carnegie Medals, six Emmys). His creations include a pigeon who wants to drive the bus, a knuffle bunny that gets lost, and a terrible monster named Leonardo. Additionally, he has written 25 books featuring Elephant and Piggie, and their adventures have now made it to the stage of the Children's Theatre in a Kennedy Center commission, Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play!.

It is a charming, hour-long production. The play, like the book series, is aimed at very young children, through that does not stop Willems (who wrote the script) from including references to Hamlet and Star Wars, offering subtle double-meanings (Piggie to her friend: "You're the elephant in the room!"), and using words like "complimentary," "pachyderm," "manipulative," and "delirious."

The action takes place on a relatively bare stage, with minimal (but quite effective) props, and good use of sound effects and lighting changes. Elephant (known mostly as "Gerald" to his friend) and Piggie (known as "Piggie") are not in animal costume, but they are dressed in ways to express their personality. Gerald, played with just the right mixture of authority and panic by Christopher Michael Richardson, is whimsically costumed by Frank Labovitz in a sport coat, tie, short pants, and big tennis shoes, while Piggie (Shina Brashears) wears a near-pink dress and tights and big Converse shoes of a similar shade. Brashears gives Piggie a squeaky voice reminiscent of a 1920s flapper and brings a lovely singing voice to the play's many songs. In a number of these songs, Gerald and Piggie are joined by a chorus of sequin-costumed "Squirrelles" (Jennie Lutz, Justine Icy Moral, and Caroline Wolfson).

Like Willems' original books, the play helps children learn how to respond to real-world situations. The narrative, directed playfully by Jerry Whiddon, deals with the small (but not small to them) problems of young best friends: Wondering what the day will bring; going to a first party; not wanting one's friend to leave; wondering if one should share one's ice cream; and breaking a friend's new toy. At the end, Gerald and Piggie discover, to their amazement, that they are in a play, and that they can get their audience to do things with them (they even have a discussion with the "Stage Manager" to figure out how close they are to the end of their script).

It is a charming production and just the right length for the young children in the audience, who all seemed mesmerized by the performance.

Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play!, by Mo Williams, through October 23, 2016, at Children's Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis. Running time: 60 minutes without intermission. ASL/AD: October 14 at 7PM, Sensory Friendly: October 21 at 7PM.. For more information and tickets, call the box office at (612) 874-0400, or visit www.childrenstheatre.org.

Directed by Jerry Whiddon
Featuring Christopher Michael Richardson, Shinah Brashears, Jennie Lutz, Justine Icy Moral, Caroline Wolfson
Script and lyrics by Mo Willems
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Choreographed by Jessica Hartman
Scenic Designer James Kronzer
Lighting Designer Kyle Grant
Costume Designer Frank Labovitz
Sound Designer Elisheba Ittoop


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