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A Wrinkle in Time
The Vortex Theatre

Also see Dean's reviews of Alice in Wonderland, A Musical and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

(clockwise, from top left) Lacey Bingham, Richard Boehler, Avery Zudell, Andres Rodriguez, Matilda Yatsco
The Vortex production of A Wrinkle in Time is based on the 1962 novel by Madeleine L'Engle that won the Newbery Medal, the top prize for a kids' chapter book. The novel has been included in the National Education Association's Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children and was listed in the Top 100 Chapter Books by School Library Journal. It's a classic through and through.

This production is the third in a recent string of novels brought to the stage by Albuquerque theater groups. In the last year, Albuquerque Little Theatre presented To Kill a Mockingbird and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Other literary works have been performed here recently, but none so classic as these three.

Mockingbird and Cuckoo's Nest survived the transition to stage well. A Wrinkle in Time doesn't quite make it over the chasm. There are clear reasons Wrinkle stumbles on stage while the others soared. It is not as well grounded in literary voice and character as the other two, so there is less to bring to the stage. With Mockingbird and Cuckoo's Nest, you can close your eyes, listen to the script, and you know exactly where you are in the story. With Wrinkle, this exercise would produce confusion. The story is mostly plot, and a complicated plot at that.

On the stage, it's difficult to get across ideas like "tessering" (moving from planet to planet) and it's hard to depict different degrees of telepathy. It's also hard to convey a character who appears as a small glowing ball.

When I was in my late teens, "A Wrinkle in Time" was my favorite book (I came to it late). For me, it captured the fear of being overwhelmed by soul-killing conformity. Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" took up the same argument, though in a darker vein, where conformity results in insanity rather than "Pleasant Valley Sunday" comfort in Wrinkle. The terror implicit in this tale does not come through in the stage version of the story.

The culprit as far as I can see is the script adapted by John Gore. It simply isn't a thick enough stew to nourish. Given that challenge, director Leigh Ann Santillanes does an admirable job with the lovely story. Santillanes is a veteran director, having overseen plays at the Vortex, the Adobe, and Albuquerque Little Theatre. Drea Maletta as Mrs. Whatsit and Lacey Bingham as Mrs. Who are wonderful in their good-witch swirling and dancing. The kids, Matilda Yatsco as Meg, Andres Rodriguez as Charles Wallace, and Avery Zudell as Calvin, do their best, but the characters are too thinly developed in the script to offer the actors much dramatic meat.

Big kudus are due the staging, likely a collaboration by Santillanes and production stage manager Ray Rey Griego. Using lines read from the novel itself, narrators intermittently circle the characters. This charming device redeems much of the story.

A Wrinkle in Time will run at The Vortex Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, through February 1, 2015. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. All tickets are $22. You can buy tickets online at or by phone at 247-8600.

Photo: Courtesy of Vortex Theatre

--Rob Spiegel

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