Winsor McCay, the originator of the “Little Nemo” comic strip that ran in newspapers in the early 1900s, was an acknowledged genius of the form. He inspired many artists to follow him, including Walt Disney, R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman.
Indeed, his story would make for a fascinating play for adults. But this play, written by David Hansen and based on McCay’s characters, is meant for kids. And it’s quite a treat.
As soon as Nemo (which means “no one” in Latin) nods off at night, his bed launches him into many adventures populated by the Princess of Slumberland, an Imp who speaks in a non-identifiable foreign tongue, and Flip, a fellow who keeps trying to wake up Nemo and interrupt the boy’s nocturnal travels.
Director Alison Garrigan knows her audience and keeps the action fast-paced and funny. Valerie C. Kilmer is ideal as Nemo, reacting with surprise and delight as the adventures unfold. Annie Perusek is endearing as both Nemo’s mom and as the Princess, and Tim Pringuangkeo makes Flip both a thorn in Nemo’s side and an eventual ally.
Other roles are well-animated by the angular and amusing Bryan Ritchey, Lauren B. Smith as the irrepressible Imp and Christopher Walker as King Morpheus and Santa, among others.
It’s a colorful and high-energy 45-minute show that works just fine. But one can only imagine what TCT could do with a bigger budget and an ability to show some of McCay’s jaw-dropping and often hallucinatory art.
Anyhow, at the end Nemo finds that he is not “no one,” he is most definitely someone. And that’s a lesson we can all take to heart.
Adventures in Slumberland
Through December 22 at the Talespinner Children’s Theatre, The Reinberger Auditorium, 5209 Detroit Avenue, 216-264-9680