A Silly Silverstein Show
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 15, 2008
All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas layin' in the sun
Thinkin' 'bout the things they Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda done
Then all those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas ran away and hid from the one little DID.
That's the brilliance of Shel Silverstein. In fact, his genius is so enduring that as I looked around the room at A Silly Silverstein Show I saw mostly big kids like me who have such fond memories of Silverstein's work that they jump at the chance to see it performed. In terms of this production, it is certainly enjoyable to see the work done, but it is not as fully realized as it possibly could be.
The two main stories told are "The Giving Tree" and "The Missing Piece." Both stories are broken up into several segments with other poems and songs by Silverstein in between the segments. There is live music that goes along with the show with instruments ranging from cello to plastic pan flute and even a didgeridoo.
The actors are all dressed in black and they each perform various roles. The ensemble is talented and they do their very best at animating the characters in the poems and songs they perform. Luke Santy stands out as the company's musical director. He plays all the instruments, sings a song or two, and narrates a shadow puppet piece about a cuttle fish. He is very impressive and the cuttle fish shadow puppet number is among the best of the show. I also especially enjoyed the performances of Rob Hill as "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" (the girl who wouldn't take the garbage out) and Sarah Whalen as the Giving Tree and in "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony." The rest of the cast, Emily Norton, Rory Shea, and Alex Frost are most definitely committed and enthusiastic, though at times they needed to speak up a little.
The main issue I have with this piece is its apparent lack of imagination. Director Jessica Marie Lorence stages the show with very little action or animation of the pieces. Actors enter, say their respective poems, and then exit. There is no staging of the action being described using the other actors. There are very few props and the few that are available are not used to their fullest potential. For example, the garbage bag in "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" only has one item pulled from it, out of the many, many mentioned in the text. Also, there are hardly any puppets. With the exception of the shadow puppets, the only others are the various Missing Pieces, which are merely two dimensional representations of the drawings in Silverstein's book, and a very short bit done with finger puppets at the beginning. Also, "The Giving Tree" works well broken up into segments but that is not the case with "The Missing Piece." I couldn't help but think that if I were a kid at this show I would have been fairly disappointed though not as much as the adults who, no doubt, have higher expectations from a show using such wonderful source material.