By Jillian Carter
Community Players, Saturday, April 30, 2022, 7:30 pm.
Ah, Charlotte’s Web. The timeless classic was brought to life this week by Community Players’ Acting Up program, which aims to get local middle-schoolers involved in every aspect of theatre.
I doubt we need a plot recap, since most are familiar with the story, but I have to admit I forgot how dark the tale really is. After all, the whole play is about a pig trying to avoid its own slaughter, and his best friend dying after saving his life. Interestingly, this adaptation by Joseph Robinette includes some fairly upsetting lines that brought out more than a few hankies in the audience. Thankfully, the cast and crew keep the energy up and the air light, keeping audience spirits high while allowing us room to take in the more emotional and poignant moments.
The cast is led by two narrators (Leena Tunink and Josephine Davis), who do exceedingly well in finding a good balance of being the center of attention or being unobtrusive, whichever is called for to lead the audience along. Other clear standouts include Kiptyn Behrends (Wilbur), who possesses an easy stage presence and natural comedic timing, Jonah Erikson (Templeton), who could give a master class in staying in character at all times, and Cecily Weidel (Charlotte), who was somehow creepy and comforting in equal measures. Weidel, especially, has a promising future in theatre; her command of the stage and graceful delivery are talents that could make adult actors green with envy.
Addison Schafer (Fern), Kaylynn Ballue (Goose), David Maurstad (Lurvy), Alex Starkey (Avery), and Micah Zapata (Uncle) all had scene-stealing moments as well. I’m still laughing about Uncle’s bravado. That said, everyone in the cast worked their butts off to give us an awesome production; I just can’t list all their names here!
The adults deserve a bit of praise as well. I’ve come to love Community Players productions for many reasons, but one is the fact that they treat children’s shows like mainstage performances. The production values are set at a high bar, and Director Tyler Rinne appears to be no less demanding of his young charges than his adult artists. He is a true master at coaxing and coaching his performers to live up to their potential. It’s fun and inspiring to witness.
Morgan Fox’s costume design is adorable and, more importantly for kids under hot lights, wearable! She finds a way to blend literal nods to the animals (tails, ears, etc.) with classic clothes (overalls galore!), in a way that leaves no doubt about who is who and what is what. Templeton clearly belongs in a rumpled sweater vest in the same way that Goose should always wear a gorgeous yellow A-line spring dress. Great choices!
Brandon “Brad” Clark’s lighting design brilliantly delivers seamless transitions, changes in time of day, and fireworks, as well as showcasing the always flawless scenic design of Tyler Rinne and Mason Gustafson.
This is just a lovely little show that transports the audience into a sweet world of naivete, where a pet pig’s sale is “the most terrible case of injustice ever.” I highly recommend this brief escape from the real world.
If you go: You can still see Charlotte’s Web Sunday, May 1 at 2:00 pm by ordering tickets online, calling the box office at (402) 228-1801, or buying tickets before the show as seating allows.
Jillian Carter is a local playwright, director, and performer. She has been in love with theatre almost as long as she has with writing.
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