Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Playground Theatre: The Red Thread (reviews)

Children's theatre productions rarely get reviewed in South Florida, although they reach a much greater audience than adult-oriented theatre.  But the Playground is known for the kind of fantastically high production values usually reserved for opera or ballet.  So perhaps that is why The Red Thread has gotten attention rarely lavished on "kids shows."

The PlayGround Theatre opened their production of The Red Thread on April 13, 2011.
A widowed weaver has dedicated three years of his life to creating one magnificent silk tapestry. Anxious to sell the tapestry so they can use the money to create luxurious lives, the weaver’s two older daughters steal his work before it is finished. Mortally betrayed, the weaver collapses, and his youngest daughter takes it upon herself to retrieve his masterpiece. Her ensuing adventures challenge her mind, body, and spirit and ultimately bring her true love, inner strength, and a glorious reunion.  This original play is inspired by Chinese folklore, myths and mysticism.
Stephanie Ansin directed cast that included Jesus Quintero, Christina Jun, Troy Davidson, Kate Shine, Melissa Almaguer, Christian T. Chan, and Marjorie O'Neill-Butler.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
...Stephanie Ansin, director, co-scriptwriter and chief visionary of The Red Thread, has once again led her core corps of artists in melding stylized movement, an original exotic soundtrack, ornate costumes worthy of Chinese opera, disciplined choreography, earnest performances and a parade of visual images that keep you asking, “This is children’s theater?”
The actors never perform like adults condescending to children. They play each emotion for the reality that they can elicit from the situation, although, frankly, the material has no subtlety and neither do the performances. But it’s for kids, you know?
Ansin’s creative team each deserve a Carbonell Award (although the theater is inexplicably not eligible) including the idiosyncratic choreography by Octavio Campos and the music by Luciano Stazzone, which combines traditional Asian sounds with an electronic undercurrent.

But standing above all are the stunningly integrated costumes, set and lighting designs by Calzadilla under Ansin’s direction. Other than the baroque wedding clothing and royal robes, Calzadilla’s costumes are not so much ornate as deftly designed.
 (Editor's note: when you read Bill's review, you'll note that he felt the show move a little slow.)

Chris Joseph wrote for The Miami New Times:
..the PlayGround Theatre... has unveiled yet another foray into myth and fantasy: The Red Thread.
We then scroll down through Chris Joseph wasting our time and valuable space by reciting the entire fucking play, until we finally abandon pointless narration for a few more morsels of actual play review:
Christina Jun gives a stalwart performance as the vulnerable but heroic Ling Shih, and Troy Davidson is a spellbinding presence as Guairen the mystic...
One of the play's better performances comes from the cast we don't see. Much of the story is told through the use of shadow puppets (another ancient Chinese tradition) masterfully manipulated by a crew dressed in black.
Co-writers Stephanie Ansin (who also directs) and Fernando Calzadilla have created a wholly original fantasy rich in Chinese mysticism, magic, and wonder.
I'd blame Chris Joseph for the rancid piece of crap being paraded as a review, but the fact is that his editor should be cutting out all the endless plot spoilers and pointless narration, and make Joseph write more actual analysis of the production.  So I'll give Joseph the benefit of the doubt, but I'd still like to spend an hour in a room with his editor strapped to a chair and attached to a car battery.  Ve Haff Vays to Make You Edit.

Mia Leonin reviewed for ArtBurst Miami, a blog that seems centered on dance:
The PlayGround Theatre’s visually striking productions have become the trademark of a team that creates captivating performances for children – and the adults who schlep them.

The PlayGround Theatre’s latest creation, The Red Thread, is no exception. Fernando Calzadilla’s set, lighting, and costumes are so vibrant and vital to the story, it’s as if the design elements are characters. And Octavio Campos’ choreography adds to the fluidity of the movement on stage.
Troy Davidson is exquisite as the mystic who helps Ling Shih uncover her inner strength and balance. Jun is a perfect fit for the role of Ling Shih. She possesses the agility and athleticism to do the more harrowing physical parts believably, but she is also an actress with a lot of character. Christian Chan is also charismatic as the Prince of Khotan. He and his demanding mother, the Queen of Khotan (Marjorie O’Neill-Butler) add humor to the play’s drama.
The Red Thread pulls together elements of adventure, drama, and humor to create a rich theatrical experience. The PlayGround Theatre is one of the few theaters in South Florida that consistently manages to engage, inform, and delight a multi-generational audience, but don’t take my word for it. I attended The Red Thread with my seven-year-old daughter and my stepsons who are 15 and 16. Miraculously, everyone was speechless for 90 minutes. The grade schooler didn’t fidget and the teenagers couldn’t come up with one sarcastic remark. Silence speaks volumes.

The Red Thread plays at The PlayGround Theatre through May 21, 2011.

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