Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The play follows a simple, timeless and often told love story about a shy man who is in love with a woman. But he finds his heart broken when he isn't able to speak his thoughts and things don't go the way he plans. Set in a small Italian town, the baker Perô is secretly in love with the laundress Colombina who lives next door. But, since Perô bakes at night and Colombina washes during the day, they hardly ever see each other. When the outgoing painter Palentino also sets his eye on Colombina it forms a romantic rivalry. The story is narrated by the Sun and the Moon who also add musical accompaniment and, since their two schedules also don't mesh, it provides a nice counterpoint to the main story.
Writer and composer Guus Ponsioen's adaptation is inventive and delightful and his score is full of wit, humor, and imaginative moments. The story is told by a cast of four, who turn this into more than just a traditional children's puppet show. It is charming, beguiling, and also part musical with operatic flourishes and a huge dollop of romance.
Jon Gentry and Katie McFadzen play Perô/Paletino and Colombina as well as numerous other parts, providing distinct, expressive portrayals. Kristen Drathman and Dwayne Hartford play the Sun and the Moon, with Drathman's vibrant energy and loud, operatic voice a nice mirror to Hartford's shy and quiet wit.
While the European flair and touches of commedia dell'arte in the production may be new and different for some theatregoers, and catch them off guard, Onny Huisink directs with a high sense of theatrical fluidity that is captivating. He also provides a strong visual style with his unique set, costume, hair, and makeup designs. Ponsioen's always-changing score features bits of jazz and opera, all well played and sung by Drathman and Hartford. Saskia Janse's puppet designs are both elegant and unique yet also strangely familiar, with Perô resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy.
While it is an intriguing concept, and something that you most likely won't see in town from other theatre companies, the sophisticated theatrical approach may come off a bit pretentious or even confusing, especially for those who are used to more traditional (ie: "American") children's theatre productions. But Perô is full of creativity and this simple, thoughtful, and enchanting story will pique your imagination and engage those with curious minds.
Perô, or the Mysteries of the Night at Childsplay runs through February 7th, 2016, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe, with performances on Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale at www.childsplayaz.org or at the Tempe Center for the Arts Box Office (480) 350-2822 (ext. 0)
Based on the book "Pierrot ou les Secrets de la Nuit" by Michel Tournier
Sun: Kristen Drathman