Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Tibet Through the Red Box
at Seattle Children's Theatre

A treat for the eye and a children's theatre production for the whole family awaits audiences attending Tibet Through the Red Box, the world premiere of David Henry Hwang's spare and sprightly adaptation of Peter Sis' captivating children's book.

Hwang's rather free adaptation of the Czechoslovakian Sis' fanciful autobiographical tale of the young Peter's filmmaker father being sent (courtesy of the Russian regime in charge of Czechoslovakia) to document the Communist Chinese building a highway into Tibet. What was to have been a three-month journey ended up taking three years, during which Peter takes a fall and spends a significant amount of time bed bound. His father's letters from Tibet transport Pete's imagination on a magical journey to a land of monks, lamas, and abominable snowmen.

Hwang's accessible and funny script and the fluid direction of Francesca Zambello in turn transport the audience at SCT. Just as responsible for the production's success are Carey Wong's handsome sets, Anita Yavich's rich costumes, Mark McCullough's vivid lighting designs, and particularly fine projections designed by Jan Hartley, which gives the whole show a very cinematic feeling. There is even some Flying by Foy to cap the production's flights of fancy.

As Peter, Tommy Fleming delivers an utterly natural and appealing portrayal of a young man who overcomes his feelings of abandonment and resentment by giving himself over to a vivid fantasy life. Peter Crook as young Peter's father is sympathetic and charming as he discovers the wonders of Tibet. Randy Reyes as a Boy Spirit who takes on many guises (including a sassy family feline) is the comedic heart of the warmth and humor. The musical contributions of exiled Tibetan musicians Tsering Dorjee Bawa, Phuntsok Tsering and Karma Wangdu add authenticity and grace to the proceedings, and the ensemble cast members fill in admirably as various human and fantasy characters.

Tommy Fleming as Peter, surrounded by three Yetis

In under ninety minutes, Tibet Through the Red Box successfully spans the generations represented in an SCT audience, taking them to a corner of the world that few of us will ever be able to experience in a flesh and blood sort of way. Tibet Through the Red Box runs through March 14 at Seattle Children's Theatre in the Charlotte Martin, 2nd Avenue and Thomas Streets, Seattle Center. For further information visit SCT's web-site at

Photo: Chris Bennion

- David-Edward Hughes

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