by Terrance Mc Arthur
Long, long ago, Christopher Robin Milne had a toy bear. He called the bear Winnie the Pooh. Christopher’s father, A. A. Milne, wrote stories about Christopher and Pooh and Piglet and Tigger and Owl and Kanga and Roo and Rabbit and Eeyore…and the world thought it was cute.
Visalia’s Enchanted Playhouse has staged Bettye Knapp’s adaptation of the stories from The House at Pooh Corner. Some of the stories are familiar. Some of them may be new to you. All of them are cute.
I mean cute in a kindly, “aww” way. There are “Awww” moments, chuckle moments, and a few lump-in-the-throat moments. You will see what “Backson” means, how to build a house for an Eeyore, what destruction a Tigger can bring, what Tiggers like to eat, how NOT to get rid of a Tigger, and the sorrows of growing up and going away.
The Main Street Theatre is always a delight, with its arcing network of wooden beams and slats, bending over the half-lit homes of Pooh and Owl, with the curtains parting to reveal a riotously green portion of the Hundred-Acre Wood, thanks to the set design/construction of Allen Williams and co-directors Donald Williams and Chris Lynn. Larissa Williams and Barbara Smith costumed the characters just as they should have been, and much of Whitney Terry’s make-ups are miraculous.
What is your image of Pooh? Kindly, befuddled, and cuddly? In this production, that’s Ella Neiderreiter, wrapped in roly-poly fabric. Joshua Zsido is a Pepto-Bismol pink Piglet, squeaky and panicky, bustling about the stage with determination. Olivia Gonzales is Rabbit, fussy and stuffy, dressed somewhere between Mary Engelbreit and Kate Greenaway, by way of Beatrix Potter, the only character actively trying to sound British.
Jacob Patton is kind and earnest as Christopher Robin, concerned about his pretend friends, but allowing them the run of the woods in their own way, seldom imposing his will upon them. Annie & Lucy Daniel make a charming Kanga and Roo, sharing a real-life mother/daughter bond; Annie is concerned and motherly in a brown, 1950’s TV housewife outfit, complete with pillbox hair, and their tails could be deadly weapons if they weren’t as adept at swinging them out of the way as they have undoubtedly practiced to be.
Tigger always seemed to be a 1920’s case study in ADHD, and Alex Quezada is bouncy, distracted, and blustery, bounding along with impressive speed. Jessica Rice is feathery as Owl, too busy to dispense any real wisdom.
My favorite character has always been Eeyore, whose fatalistic outlook on the world has always been an antidote to the rampant cuteness around him. Ethan, Alburger is morose, nearly narcoleptic, and utterly irresistible.
I’ve lost portions of my upper-frequency hearing, and some of the actors were hard to understand, but the show brings back a world of childhood play.
The House at Pooh Corner runs through February 21 at 307 E. Main in Visalia. Tickets for matinees are $5, and evening performances are $7 in advance, and $8 at the box office. For further information, call 559-739-4600 or go to www.enchantedplayhouse.org/main.html.
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