Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review of Forks and Hope's Best Beloved: The Just So Stories at Strawdog Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Best Beloved: The Just So Stories. It was based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, devised by Forks and Hope, and it was directed by Josh Sobel. It was about a woman (Alexis Randolph) whose child has just died and Rudyard Kipling's spirit (Andrew Bailes) came to her when she was reading the Just So Stories and helped her feel better because he had lost a child too. She reads the stories and they are basically reenacted around her. Most of the time it is sad, but at some little points it is funny. It made me think about what that mother was going through and if I was a mother would I have to go through that.

There was this story called "The Cat Who Walked by Himself." And it was about a Cat (Emily Gann) who walked all alone and he didn't like any company. The animals are learning how to obey humans but the cat was like, "I can go anywhere I like because I am the cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me." He was kind of sassy. But then when the woman Casey Pilkenton) conjured a spell she lured all the animals and made them obedient by giving them what they wanted. I thought the sheep was hilarious when they said they had sheep for dinner; it was really funny because the man (Andrew Bailes) just came and plucked the sheep from behind the curtain and the sheep said "oooooh god." I thought it was really funny how the horse (Errol McLendon) put a pompom in his pants to make a tail. I liked how the baby (Suzanna Ziko) was crying a lot and then the cat walked into her arms and she was like, "Yay!" I loved when the bat (Christian Stokes) came on in a Batman costume and he talked in this groggy dark voice. Just when it gets funny, they bring up the sad thing again by showing the baby walking off and the mother trying to hug her but then she doesn't get a chance.

I liked the story about the crab who played by the sea. I liked the shadow puppetry with the crab. I liked the wizard (Errol McLendon). I thought that he was really cool; he reminded me of Carl Kasell. I liked the story because of how the little girl, how she basically told the magician where the crab was. I was like, "Yay! The child found that out." A lot of stories at this time, when the book was made, were about the stupidity of children and how they should never play with fire otherwise they will turn into ashes and fall into a gruesome end. I think that Kipling had a good idea to make children believe in themselves--like Lewis Carroll before Kipling and J.K. Rowling after him.

I would have liked it more if there had been a lot more stories, like at least six so they did half. I think that they spent too much time cleaning up the room and crying and a little too much time changing the set. I would have liked to hear about the butterfly who stamped and the how the rhinoceros got its skin and how the leopard got its spots and how the camel got its hump and how the whale got its throat and more about how the alphabet was made. I also had trouble with some of the acting. Lots of children's theater has really really good actors, and that was true of almost all these actors. But some children's theater that I saw when I was little is like very happily expressive. There were times when I felt that way about this show. That makes me feel like, "Why are they so happy?" It makes you feel very strange. It makes you feel, if you are a child, "So that is what they think I am like." Well, I'm not a cute little fluffy bunny that is always happy.

People who would like this show are people who like giant crabs, scared sheep, sassy cats, and hilarious bats. People should go see this show if they want to see a little snippet of Rudyard Kipling and learn about this woman who has lost her child. It tells you what it would be like to have your child die, but there were still some parts that were funny.

Photos: Tom McGrath

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