‘We’re gonna see Give a Mouse a Cookie!’
‘When’s the movie gonna start?’
‘It’s not a movie—it’s a show!’
‘Oh, look, there’s the telephone!’
‘What’s the difference between a movie and a show?’
‘And the clock!’
‘Right there, see, where the lines are.’
‘Oh! I can’t see it too good cuz it’s to my side.’
‘I wish my brother could be here.’
‘Are those the cookies in the baggie?’
‘When’s it gonna start?’
So went the judgment of the citizen critics, mostly age six and under—and the play, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at the Manhattan Children’s Theatre, hadn’t even started yet. As several of the children in the audience had already seen at least one other MCT production, the chorus of approval suggests that MCT is doing its job well. In what other theatre can you find spectators this demonstrably excited about the play they’re about to see?
It probably helps that the play is adapted from the Laura Joffe Numeroof picture book, which many children already know and love. The adaptation is also original and infused with a dynamic, witty sense of the uniquely theatrical. The Boy (Chris Alonzo) and Mouse (Sharon Halevy or Margot Stern, alternating) are nearly the same size, and everything else is appropriately oversized, from the nine-foot-tall refrigerator to the milk carton, face powder box, crayons, and other stuff with which the Mouse litters the naïve Boy’s mother’s kitchen.
As a decades-over-4 viewer, I found the play a diverting bit of physical theatre. Highlights for adult viewers include the Mouse’s intricate duet with its mirror image, played by the alternate actress on the other side of a hollow mirror frame; and a renegade broom, played by the same actress, that shimmied in its hula-skirt bristles as it tumbled across the kitchen. As the Boy, Alonzo conveyed both childlike naiveté and adult exasperation. He’s trying to be a good kid, and to believe that ‘evil’ and ‘good’ are as easily identifiable as they are in his Jungle Man Meets King Constrictor comic book, no matter what the Mouse does to disprove this. Michael Vitali’s original music adds suspense to the action.
After the show, the audience lined up to meet the actors, who remained in costume to thank children and parents individually as they left. It’s a nice tradition, a casting-off of the theatrical masks in the manner of the epilogue of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The main difference, however, is that nobody in the theatre ‘slumbered… whilst these visions didst appear.’ So if you are a parent, take your kids to see If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and if you aren’t a parent, help build the theatre audiences of the twenty-first century by going to see it with someone else’s kids.
Copyright 2006 RL Nesvet
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