Eleanor's Cabinet and My Fair Lady
Also see Elizabeth's review of The Piano Lesson
The show is based on the children's stories and poems of English author Eleanor Farjeon and adapted by Sommers. Instead of strict adaptations of the pieces, Open Eye goes for a more circular and lyrical route, inviting us into the cabinet of Eleanor's imagination and letting out the special places where children create their own worlds to play.
The action is herded - well, there is an attempt anyway - by Crabby Nicodemus, who looks like a mix of a European clown and an extra from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. His efforts to refill Eleanor's titular cabinet are flummoxed at every turn, until he starts to get the oldest version of Eleanor to retrace her steps and bound with the three earlier versions of herself, slowly filling the cabinet with artifacts (books and images of her parents), writings and pure memories.
It's a lovely piece that mixes creative use of the cabinet set (with all of its drawers and crannies), puppetry, visual effects and solid acting from the cast. You can't say the work is "about" anything in particular, but isn't that so much like the play of children: about everything and nothing at the same time; not about getting to the end of the plot, but enjoying the journey along the way?
Eleanor's Cabinet runs through March 30 at Open Eye Figure Theatre, 506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis. For tickets and more information, call 612-874-6338 or visit www.openeyetheatre.org.
Photo: Open Eye Theatre
At the center of the storm, as always, are the dueling spirits of Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. As Eliza, Lisa O'Hare shows the strength in her "guttersnipe" flower girl from the very first moments on stage, even while singing a song as longing and hopeful as "Wouldn't It Be Loverly." Christopher Cazenove has the unenviable task of stepping into Rex Harrison's slippers, and he sticks close to that venerable performance. Cazenove never lets his gruff side down as the Professor, charging through the action like a bull in a china shop.
The two have fine chemistry together, but it never feels like they are falling into, well anything at all. Some of that is the fault of the script, which shoehorns a sort-of happy ending that doesn't really fit the tone or story of the previous three hours. Yet O'Hare and Cazenove also don't show enough cracks in their armor to let us see that the two characters may have deeper, if unexplored, feelings for each other.
The balance of the cast give strong performances, led by Tim Jerome as Eliza's father, who takes every chance to ham it up in his scene-stealing role. Walter Charles plays Colonel Pickering with a softer side than usual, making more for a foil to Higgins than just a companion.
The Trevor-Nunn-directed-restaged-by-Shaun-Kerrison National Theatre/Cameron MacKintosh production (you may need a flow chart to work out the exact path of this show) stays close to the original production, but isn't afraid to add in the occasional fresh nuance. "With a Little Bit of Luck" transforms from a pub-crawling drinking song into an Edwardian version of Stomp when the denizens of the East End start banging on trash-can lids and other debris. The choreography stars in other areas as well, such as "Ascot Gavotte," as the upper crust parade around the grounds like horses on parade. The fun touches help to keep the long show afloat, but it is the fireworks between Eliza and Higgins that drive the show.
My Fair Lady is presented by the Hennepin Theatre Trust and runs through March 2 at the Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. For tickets, call 612-673-0404 or visit www.hennepintheatredistrict.org.