Friday, May 9, 2014

Review of First Floor Theater's Tollbooth: A Clown Show

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Tollbooth: A Clown Show. It was directed and devised by Will Bishop and Scott Ray Merchant. It was about Shiloh (Kyle Geissler) who was a young man who, on his birthday connected these two cords and basically these clowns started popping out everywhere and moving things and telling him this story about Wisdom and Whimsy, who were two princesses who had been banished by their two brothers, one who ruled numbers (Kate Healy) and one who ruled letters (Shaw Nigro). And then on his adventure he met really great friends, including a dog named Minnie (Angelica Roque) and a grumpy man named Balderstache (Tim Martin). It is based on The Phantom Tollbooth, so if you like The Phantom Tollbooth you would probably like this. I liked this show and I thought the puppets were really awesome.

The puppets (by Dav Yendler, Grace Needleman, Evan Garrett, Myra Su, Cara Feeney, and Ellie Terrell) I thought were very nice. I liked the Dodecahedron (Alexander Knapp), because it had so many faces and it just flipped around now and then. I liked how Shiloh was not only an actor but also a puppet. I think they chose to do that so he could really interact with the smaller puppets without it looking weird. But he was also an actor so then he could act with the bigger puppets as well. Speaking of the big puppets, I really liked the ending puppet. I thought it was very satisfactory. It was the perfect place to end at, and you weren’t expecting it. I’m not being more specific because I want this to be a surprise to you. But, also, watch out for a lobster claw!

This show was at a fieldhouse at a park, where a lot of kids' birthday parties are. I thought that was really cool because at the beginning the show was set at a birthday party. They created that atmosphere by having birthday party crafts and presents and other party-like stuff. I liked how it seemed very kid-friendly while most shows that are parodies of children's books sometimes aren't.

I liked how they really embraced clowning and they didn't just call it Tollbooth: A Clown Show. I liked their outfits, they really reminded me of clowns--not circus clowns, like clowns who were kids. They reminded me of clowns because they went crazy, wore kneepads everywhere, and were noisy. Clowns are mostly funny. They can also be terrifying, but these were anything but terrifying. I would call them cute. They had clownish makeup which I thought made the clown aspect more clear.

I liked when Shiloh was running up the infinity staircase. I found that very cool because the stairs kept switching around kind of in circles now and then. That made you feel like you were actually going up the infinity staircase. They used shadow puppets for the infinity staircase but had Shilo just as a tiny actual puppet on the outside.

I thought the dog Minnie, was very cool. It used to be Tock, but now it is Minnie which is short for minute. I liked how they switched the gender from male to female, because they did not have enough female characters in The Phantom Tollbooth, I thought. I really liked Minnie's puppeteer because they both basically had the same hat and I think Minnie is awesome.

I think that it would have been a little bit better if they had just done The Phantom Tollbooth instead of doing a little bit of a spin off it. They were trying to recreate the story as their own but it seemed like they just changed the names and left most of the rest the same. Parody points outs and fixes flaws or makes fun, but this time they weren't doing either. They were just doing a spinoff. I was glad they weren't making fun of it because that is what I didn't want. I did want them to change more than the names and a little bit of the plot or just go ahead and do The Phantom Tollbooth. I liked the things that were changed; I just wanted more of them.

People who would like this show are people who like watchdogs, infinity staircases, and awesome puppets. I think this show should be for ages 3 and up because it is not too scary but I don't think a 2-year-old could really handle it. People should see this show because it is funny, the puppets are great, and it has a great atmosphere.

Photos: Molly FitzMaurice

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