A Fable to Reflect On
“A Wonderfully Flat Thing"
Directed by David Winitsky
14th Street Y LABA Theatre
344 East 14th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues
Tickets: $15; (646) 395-4322 or www.14StreetY.org
Closes Jan. 16, 2011
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Jan. 9, 2011
Mark Twain, best known for his twin novels of childhood, Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was also a writer of fables. One of his fables, “A Wonderfully Flat Thing," has been adapted for children’s theater by Valerie Work, Manju Shandler and Basmat Hazan, and is currently playing a return engagement at 14th Street Y LABA theatre.
The show, created by Shandler and Hazan, directed by David Winitsky and choreographed by Jesse Zaritt, features a talented group of actor/puppeteers who tell the story of self-discovery through music, dance, spoken word, and video projections.
The “wonderfully flat thing" of the title is, of course, a mirror, which reveals our image in unexpected ways. In “A Wonderfully Flat Thing," the Ostrich Sarae Garcia), the Cat Emily Hartford), the Donkey (Jake Goodman), the Elephant (Shawn Shafner) and the Snake (Sarah Painter) all see the image of themselves in the mirror and come to the conclusion that their image is an intrinsic part of the mirror. They may be pleased or alarmed by what they see.
This egocentric interpretation is one that is quite understandable to the innocent minds of children. But whether or not children get Twain’s moral and philosophical message, they will be intrigued and delighted by the wonderful costumes and masks worn by the actors and the spirited antics of the animals.
Shandler’s set, which includes Twain’s bedroom and the realm of the animals, is also an entertaining adventure into fantasy. And Shandler’s puppets, manipulated both by string and by hand are funny and whimsical.
With its small scale and congenial audience interaction, “A Wonderfully Flat Thing" is a perfect first-time theater experience for very young children and their adult companions. [Simmons]