Written by Patrick Chavis
Childhood is where everything begins. Those early moments can change so much in a person’s life. It’s an area of storytelling ripe with possibility. This new work by Playwright Simon J.O. Martin explores these possibilities, the happy and the sad moments. It was almost like watching a modern-day Peanuts-but no Snoopy. Just Charlie and his imagination.
Weirdo is about two cousins: a little boy name Zealand (Erica Jackson) and his cousin Abby (Siobhan Aida). Abby is a popular girl at school, and her cousin Zealand is the polar opposite. He’s considered “weird” and has trouble making friends. In this play, Zealand and Abby explore their relationship on the playground of life.
The writing in this play mixes childhood wonder and trauma, dancing back and forth at a furious pace that seems to mesh well. The playwright Simon J.O. Martin does an excellent job of communicating the relationship between the cousins as we watch how the external factors in the play affect their relationship. If I might attempt to sum up the double message in this play as simplistically as possible–things do get better, but also, life can be tough.
It’s a three-hander. The whole play is put on with three characters, Zealand, Abby, and The Ensemble (performer Claire Wagner plays one of the antagonists called Tommy plus every other stock character shown). In this all-female cast, even Zealand is played by a woman. These are adults playing children onstage, and as the play started it admittedly took me a bit of time to get used to watching grown up elementary schoolers.
But as the story progresses, that becomes less of a factor. They made it work right in front of your eyes. No tricks, just good acting. From very dramatic to a mystical wizard going on a quest, Erica Jackson’s Zealand is a lovable goofball and the hopeful protagonist in this story.
For the hour and 15 minutes of run time, Jackson takes over the whole space-acting, playing, hobbling, and jaunting around with earnest purpose. Sibohan Aida’s Abby is a mean girl, but much more than that, and Aida was able to communicate their character’s plight in a nuanced way. Claire Wagner’s supporting characters were a much-needed element in this story. I’m sure many of her parts could have been done with voice-over, but having her fully present right there on stage as a talking cloud was a treat. Cloud Zealand is a really interesting and creative manifestation.
Once you enter the theatre, you have a short walk to your seat. In front of you, the floor is a colored puzzle floor. On the near wall, a tree is drawn like an elementary school students’ project, complete with green hand prints for leaves. The puzzle-colored floor leads to a blue curtain covered in clouds concealing the rest of the set. While limited, the use of lighting (especially in certain moments in concert with the sound design from Jarid McCarthy) works more often than not.
Larking House puts on a memorable night of theater with this whimsical childhood tale.
Story9.5Acting8.5Set & Design8.5Costumes8Entertainment8.5
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Great Show! OCR Recommended! March 16 – 19,2023
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