Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Boy Who Loved Monsters and the Girl Who Loved Peas

Also see Gil's reviews of Conviction, A Celebration of Harold Pinter and Blockbuster Broadway

Katie McFadzen, Tyler Eglen and Debra K. Stevens
A fun and whacky new play for children of all ages, The Boy Who Loved Monsters and the Girl Who Loved Peas is receiving a spirited production from Childsplay in Tempe. With some Childsplay regulars in the cast, and crazy and colorful design elements, the play is a charmer with a message at the center about the importance of family together time.

Eight-year old Evan hates peas and his 4-year old sister Sue loves them. When Evan is told he can't leave the dinner table until he finishes the peas on his plate, he does what any stubborn child would do and wishes that a monster would come to finish his peas and eat his family as well. However, when a giant pea monster appears under the kitchen table, Evan has some difficulty in finding ways to hide him from his parents. Fortunately, his parents' fascination with their phones and iPads and other devices means they aren't quite as focused as they should be, so Evan, the monster, and his sister Sue have fun adventures behind the parents' backs. But the monster also makes the parents realize that their attachments to modern technology come at a price.

Playwright Jonathan Graham has written an entertaining piece that includes comic moments that children and adults can identify with as well as a clear, serious message about the importance of putting down your phone or iPad in order to be more "present" for your family. While the hour-long play has a few slow parts that caused some of the younger audience members to get a little restless at the performance I attended, overall The Boy Who Loved Monsters and the Girl Who Loved Peas is another success for Childsplay. Graham may want to tighten up those few brief moments or find other ways to keep the attentions of his audience focused.

In typical Childsplay fashion, the cast and creative elements are exceptional. Katie McFadzen, Tyler Eglen, and Michelle Cunneen form a fun trio as the monster named Pea, Evan, and Sue. McFadzen makes a lively, charming and silly monster, and Eglen and Cunneen are appropriately childlike. Likewise, Debra K. Stevens and Mel Glotfelty are perfect as the somewhat aloof but still loving parents. All five have a blast with the playful elements of the script, which adds a nice touch of fun and frivolity to the proceedings. Reminiscent of drawings in a Dr. Seuss book, Jeff Thomson's set design is full of strange angles and curves and exploding with color, as are Connie Fur-Soloman's fun costumes. Soloman's monster outfit designs for Pea and Pea's parents are extremely creative. Director Dwayne Hartford pulls the whole piece together with an appropriate sense of playful imagination.

Graham has created fun characters and situations and a timely message that any child or parent can easily relate to. With inventive creative elements that explode on the Tempe Center for the Arts stage, Childsplay has another winner on its hands.

The Boy Who Loved Monsters and the Girl Who Loved Peas at Childsplay runs through March 8th, 2015, 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 or at the Tempe Center for the Arts Box Office (480) 350-2822 (ext. 0)

Written by Jonathan Graham Directed by Dwayne Hartford
Scenic Design: Jeff Thomson
Costume, Hair and Make-Up Designs: Connie Fur-Soloman
Lighting Design: William Kirkham
Sound Design: Christopher Neumeyer
Stage Manager: Sarah G. Chanis

Pea: Katie McFadzen
Evan: Tyler Eglen
Sue: Michelle Cunneen
Mommy: Debra K. Stevens
Daddy: Mel Glotfelty

Photo: Tim Trumbule

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix

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