Things that go bump in the blackout

Shirts Socks & the Pajama King

Written and directed by Shay Gines
Esperance Theatre Company
Fringe Festival/St. Mark's Studio Theatre
94 St. Marks Pl. (420-8877)
Non-union production (closes Aug. 29)
Review by Sheila Mart

Shirts Socks & The Pajama King is a charming little pastiche geared to the youngest theatregoers among us, anywhere from age two and up. At the performance reviewed, there was a two-year old who appeared to be almost as amused by the performance as the adults accompanying her. The five- and seven-year olds in the same audience were more restrained in their enthusiasm.

There really is no story - the piece is too short for that. It tells how two enterprising children, Joanne and Thomas, are forced to entertain themselves one Saturday morning when a power failure prevents their watching TV or playing video games. When the power goes off, Joanne's Mom (& Puppeteer) suggests that they spend some time cleaning up the room. Well that of course is not a popular suggestion, and soon their imaginations begin to run wild. Suddenly they find themselves communicating with ordinary everyday objects, such as shirts and toys. These objects not only bounce and fly around, seemingly of their own volition, but they talk back to Joanne and Thomas, making weird sounds. Of course no fantasy would be complete without a monster, who in this case is far from evil. It is the Vacuum Monster (& Puppeteer), who miraculously cleans up the room. The character of Pajama King (& Puppeteer) seemed somewhat extraneous and contrived, and maybe only served symbolically to remind the kids to put away their clothes. By the time Mom appears with milk and cookies, the children have become so involved in their creative play, they are not even aware that the power has been restored.

This is an imaginative piece whose clever special effects were supplied by four very talented puppeteers, one of whom was solely a puppeteer. The theatricality was marred by the intrusion of a word game, which appeared to have been directly inspired by Sesame Street.

The performances of Dawn Reed (Joanne) and Nick Micozzi (Thomas) were adequate, but most of the time were over the top. Had they been more modulated, the behavior of the fantasy characters would have been more effective. Angel Hayes (Mom & Puppeteer), Kirsten Anderson (Sole Puppeteer), Kelly Dorhtey (Puppeteer & Vacuum Monster), and Kristen Swieconek (Puppeteer & Pajama King) are all to be congratulated on their achievements.

The show was ably written and directed by Shay Gines, a gifted lady whose directing skills, in this instance, surpassed her writing, which came across a little too patronizing, a common fault in writing for children.

Understandably, the set was minimal; framed by black curtains, it consisted of a small bed, big soft chair and small dresser.

The production team - Rachel Schroder (choreographer), Trevor A. Williams (sound), Erin Daly (design consultant), Jason Bowcutt (costumes), Mark Ax (lighting), and Ron Mathews (fight consultant), all acquitted themselves admirably - without their contributions, half the show would have been lost.

Box Score:

Writing : 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1999 Sheila Mart