Chicago Theater Review: THE LITTLE PRINCE (Lookingglass)

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by Lawrence Bommer on December 19, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

NOW E.T. REALLY CAN GO HOME

A justified hit, bright as any of the lights on Michigan Avenue, Lookingglass Theatre Company’s exhilarating adaptation of Antoine de St-Exupery’s classic and cautionary children’s tale may well run through the winter. Despite its total lack of holly or mistletoe,  David Catlin’s ingenious dramatization of this whimsical philosophic classic works well as a holiday offering, its very moral make-believe an imaginative explosion worthy of a season of wonderment.

Louise Lamson and Amelia Hefferon in Lookingglass Theatre Company’s production of THE LITTLE PRINCE.Appropriately made of parachute silk, the curtain lifts, and enchantment arrives full-blown. Marvelous scenes are played out on a curved set that serves both as sand dunes and as a huge drawing board for the narrator’s crucial illustrations. With the eight-member cast creating Foley sound effects, playing music, or soaring above and tumbling below, The Little Prince  makes for a very contemplative circus, a delight for all ages, temperaments and eyes.

Much like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, St.-Exupery’s space traveler encounters a slew of aberrant authority figures, intimidating to a child, however ridiculous they seem to us. Except for a seminal fox and a snake, they’re caricatures of imperious adults obsessed with “very important matters,” which, of course, are only petty pursuits. So the tiny heir must learn: As the Fox, who lets the Little Prince tame him, memorably declares, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” (Fortunately, Lookingglass doesn’t take this literally or the production would be austere instead of packed with stage magic.)

The famous flier’s thinking fantasy happens to a very similar aviator (Ian Barford, registering all he must), stranded in the Sahara (as the author once was) by a plane crash. There this alienated adult happily meets the title character (Amelia Hefferon, playing this French Peter Pan with boyish impetuosity and consummate innocence). Kareem Bandealy and Amelia Hefferon in Lookingglass Theatre Company’s production of THE LITTLE PRINCE.Having escaped from his tiny domain by means of a helpful flock of migratory birds, the Little Prince is now homesick for his little planet with its three volcanoes (one dormant but still requiring cleaning), mischievous baobab trees (green hands that burst through the Mylar stage and must be destroyed), and a sheep that should be muzzled lest it eat the Little Prince’s most important treasure–the vulnerable Rose (demure Louise Lamson) who, with only four useless thorns, requires his aid. The fact that she doesn’t know she does makes her even more endearing to the protective prince.

Cast of in Lookingglass Theatre Company’s production of THE LITTLE PRINCE.Marveling at the lost boy’s isolation, much like his own deplaning, the narrating Aviator is drawn into the worlds that L.P. visited on his way to North Africa. Descending on harnesses with appropriate props depicting their eccentricities, these exaggerations of adult follies are a Business man preoccupied with counting the stars (here, hundreds of bubbles) that he says he owns; a too-obedient Lamp Lighter whose rapidly spinning planet gives him no time to rest between sunsets; a disco-ball spinning Recluse who refuses to travel lest he upset his cozy cage; a Geographer stuck inside his planet and clueless to what’s around him; and a pompous King who lords it over his barren asteroid. Unimaginative and stuck in routines, these galactic goofballs are not unlike Carroll’s absurd spoofs of grotesque grown-ups.

Amelia Hefferon and Louise Lamsonin Lookingglass Theatre Company’s production of THE LITTLE PRINCE.The earthly creatures that L.P. meets contrast comfort and menace. The Fox (Kasey Foster) becomes a tentative, then devoted, friend among the dunes, while the Snake (Kareem Bandealy), dangerous yet essential in his own wrong, supposedly delivers L.P. back to his beloved but “ephemeral” Rose before her last petals can fall.

Catlin’s perfectly modulated staging is a perfect fit for a faithful, forceful adaptation by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar. The fusion creates a 90-minute theatrical epiphany, as timeless as true, bejeweled with unimprovable performances from an inevitable cast.

photos by Liz Lauren

The Little Prince
Lookingglass Theatre Company
in association with The Actors Gymnasium
Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave.
scheduled to end on February 23, 2013
EXTENDED to March 16, 2014
for tickets, call (312) 337-0665 or visit www.lookingglasstheatre.org

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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