An ensemble of KU actors brings some classic fairy tales to life.
Children's theater is easily gauged by "the restlessness factor." Youngsters jabbering and jostling in their chairs means the play gets a quick and mighty thumbs-down.
"Story Theatre," the latest offering by Kansas University Theatre for Young People, doesn't have to worry about the turning of a hand.
The production is fast-moving, attention-grabbing and colorful. Plus it's downright wholesome.
"Story Theatre" is a collection of seven Aesop and Grimm Brothers tales, all brought to life by a clever eight-member ensemble. As audience members enter, they see the cast going through warm-up exercises on the stage. Suddenly, the cast members notice they're being watched and decide to entertain their guests with a series of fairy-tale skits.
Costumes and props are picked randomly -- or so it seems -- from a rack of old clothes and cast-away items, as the actors improvise the dialogue leading into each tale.
Mat Hostetler is dazzling as the dapper storytelling donkey in "The Bremen Town Musicians." His hee-haw is hee-liarious. Dennis DuPont, with his long ears of neckties, plays a deep-howling hound and Betsy Atkinson purr-fects the moves of a finicky cat. Matthew Elcock, wearing a red can-can around his head, makes a rousing rooster.
Amy Emrich-Selby reels in the audience with her portrayal of a greedy fisherman who asks too many favors of a supernatural fish in "The Fisherman and His Wife." Adding to this skit's fun is the use of red, violet and gray cloth strips to evoke the storminess of the sea.
Dana Hess' portrayal of a scared sheep in "Is He Fat?" is rib-tickling. Laura Zabel gets the big laughs as weak-brained Turkey Lurkey in "Henny Penny," and Jeff Evans shows off his mastery of dialects in several of the skits.
Hats off to first-time KU director Brad Shaw for staging a play marinated with merriment and imagination.
"Story Theatre" will be performed at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. today at Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Murphy Hall.