Monday July 24th 2017

“Blue Planet” reviewed by Lawrence Riordan

blue-planet Part fairy-tale, part fantasy, and part parable Akvavit Theatre’s adaptation and production of Andri Snær Magnason’s children’s novella “Blue Planet” can be simultaneously dense and heavy handed, but still manages to produce some affecting moments and explore topical questions. Hulda (Sarah Scanlon) and Brimir (Joshua Davis) live on a planet populated entirely by children, nobody knows why they don’t grow up, but they live in perfect unison with each other and relative harmony with nature (Hulda has killed a seal in the first scene). Then, the galaxy-traveling salesman Jolly Goodday (Michael Thomas Downy) arrives and offers them increasingly increments of fun: flight, eternal day, etc. in exchange for more and more of their youth. One day Hulda and Brimir fly too high and are thrown to the far, dark side of the planet which was plunged into eternal night when Jolly Goodday nailed the sun to the sky. Here, they discover the lives of the “pale children,” who inhabit this sunless world, have become miserable and bleak since the sky went dark. To console themselves, these children tell stories about the sun and show affection, things Hulda, Brimir, and their friends can no longer do.

Hulda and Brimir also discover during a frightening and affecting trip through the animal kingdom, portrayed mainly through puppetry (designed by Kim Morris and Adam MacAleavey), that the eco-system has become upset, the human relationship to the animals is unbalanced, and the forest, and existence itself, is threatened with extinction. Hulda and Brimir with the help of the pale children who are still able to feel empathy and compassion return to their side of the planet, and tell their friends about the pale children’s plight but face resistance. Ultimately over the objections of Jolly Goodday, they convince the other children that they have an obligation to help, but they have to use all there ingenuity and what little bit of youth and humanity they have left to convince him to take the nail out from the sun in the sky and put their planet back in harmony.

The most effective part of the production may well be the set (Chad Eric Bergman) and lighting (John Kelly and Cody Ryan) which produce an ambience for the “Blue Planet” which is at once fantastic and familiar. Sarah Scanlon and Michael Thomas Downey also give strong, stand-out performances although I think the latter and director Wm. Bullion could have brought more tragedy to the role of Jolly Goodday that he was a human driven by flawed ambition and not a Mephistophelian demon. The acrobatics and puppetry, with the bear, wolf, snake, and particularly the spiders, melded well with the more traditional drama and were particularly haunting. In the beginning, there was some interaction between the cast and audience, upping the intimacy in a way I’ve never seen before, perhaps a nod to Magnason’s egalitarian message, but it was simply impossible to sustain throughout the production. Also, adults playing children really didn’t work.

The portrayal of childhood in the play is idyllic and prelapserian; “Peter Pan,” not “Lord of the Flies,” or “Blue Remembered Hills,” and if there was one thing adults cannot understand or capture it is child-like innocence. They make children either dark or ridiculous. That said, I’m not sure casting it with children was a realistic possibility, and I wish Magnason would have stayed clear of jokes about excretion which seem more puerile than child-like even if they weren’t particularly vulgar.

Akvavit Theatre is producing Andri Snær Magnason’s “Blue Planet” through March 15th, 2015 at The Storefront Theatre located at 66 East Randolph Street. Performances:

Thu, Feb 19: 7:30pm
Fri, Feb 20: 7:30pm
Sat, Feb 21: 7:30pm
Sun, Feb 22: 2:00pm
Thu, Feb 26: 7:30pm
Fri, Feb 27: 7:30pm
Sat, Feb 28: 7:30pm
Sun, Mar 1: 2:00pm
Thu, Mar 5: 7:30pm
Fri, Mar 6: 7:30pm
Sat, Mar 7: 7:30pm
Sun, Mar 8: 2:00pm
Thu, Mar 12: 7:30pm
Fri, Mar 13: 7:30pm
Sat, Mar 14: 7:30pm
Sun, Mar 15: 2:00pm

 

The play runs approximately 90 minutes without an intermission. Regular Tickets are $15. Industry, Student, and Senior Tickets are $10. Tickets are $5  for children under 12 accompanied by an adult. Tickets can purchased at www.tix.com or by phone at 1.800.595.4849 or, if available, at the door the night of the performances.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Blue Planet”

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