Monday, June 23, 2014

The Floating Dolls, Talespinner Children's Theatre

Babies are helpless. So when they need something, it’s good that nature provides them with the vocal chords of an enraged screech monkey. 

The piercing wail of a crying baby can drive anyone up a wall and around the bend, so this Polish folk tale is certainly based on a real issue in people’s lives. And that’s a nice change from many kids’ stories told at Talespinner Children’s Theatre (you know, all those magic beans and etc.). 

This adaptation by Toni K. Thayer is charming, as Mama and Papa (Debbie Kepler and Ben Merold) try everything to quiet little Anatol, but they’re at their wit’s end. The crying is represented by actors beating the floor to a rhythm with their hands and other objects, which doesn’t exactly convey the mind-numbing pain of the real thing. 

Still, cue an old woman (Lauren B. Smith) who prescribes a nine-doll cure: The parents are supposed to make the dolls, give them secretly to others (or just throw them in the river), and the crying will cease. 

And it does, until other parents also learn about the cure and pretty soon dolls are flying and floating everywhere. 

The cast—which also includes Hannah Storch, Dan Rand and Richie Gagen—moves and dances with expressive glee under the direction of executive artistic director Alison Garrigan. 

And there are some very cute touches, including a Fosse-esque bunching of four actors into a lock-step unit of needy citizens (muttering “dolls…dolls…dolls…”) that is both arresting and amusing. 

It finishes with a lovely moral that might help the next time a baby goes on a crying jag in your house. Or not.

The Floating Dolls
Through July 6 at Talespinner Children’s Theatre, , The Reinberger Auditorium, 5209 Detroit Avenue, 216-264-9680.

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