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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

A Wrinkle in Time

Also see Susan's review of Candide

Epic fantasies with elaborate special effects are all very well and good, but nothing can compare with the sort of imaginative flights that can be conjured up by good actors and an engaging story. A Wrinkle in Time, now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, is a family-friendly adventure that could introduce media-savvy children and teens to a different sort of entertainment.

Playwright John Glore has adapted Madeleine L'Engle's prize-winning 1962 novel so that its many characters can all be played by six performers, and the shifts in location and perspective can be achieved through simple means. The most striking part of Misha Kachman's spare scenic design is a free-standing metal stairway that ends in the air, and JJ Kaczynski has designed intricate projections of galaxies, two-dimensional thunderstorms, and—most importantly—lots of words.

The story follows three gifted children discovering themselves as they zip through the galaxy. Meg Murry (Erin Weaver) is smart but prickly, not comfortable around people outside her family, and her little brother Charles Wallace (Jacob Land) stays quiet rather than reveal his precocious intellect and empathic connection to others. Their mother (Dawn Ursula) is a scientist; so was their father (KenYatta Rogers), who vanished two years earlier.

The mystery deepens when Mrs. Whatsit (Tonya Beckman Ross), a ditsy woman who lives in an abandoned house in the woods, arrives at the Murrys' home during a dark, stormy night. Along with her friends, Mrs. Who (Ursula) and the bodiless Mrs. Which (Rogers), Mrs. Whatsit leads the Murry children and their new friend Calvin (Davis Hasty) into a world of "tesseracts," shortcuts between distant points in the universe, to rescue their father from prison on another planet.

Director Casey Sams maintains a light touch throughout so that even the "message" parts of the play—specifically, the scenes on a forbidding, bureaucratic gray planet where a malevolent central brain enforces total conformity—don't come across as preachy. Weaver is a charmer as an awkward girl more comfortable with science than with her feelings, and Land makes accessible a character who could come across as strange and otherworldly in a negative way.

The other four actors form a tight ensemble as they shape-shift (one might say), as Ross does between kindly Mrs. Whatsit and a monster with glowing red eyes that she holds in her hands, or Ursula, whose roles in addition to Mother include an amorphous creature dubbed "Aunt Beast."

Round House Theatre
A Wrinkle in Time
December 1st January 2nd, 2011
By John Glore, from the novel by Madeleine L'Engle
Meg: Erin Weaver
Charles Wallace: Jacob Land
Mother/Mrs. Who/Camazotz Woman/Aunt Beast/Ensemble: Dawn Ursula
Mrs. Whatsit/Man with Red Eyes/Ensemble: Tonya Beckman Ross
Calvin/Ensemble: Davis Hasty
Father/Mrs. Which/Camazotz Man/Ensemble: KenYatta Rogers
Charles Wallace Understudy: Edward Stockman
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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