by Terrance Mc Arthur
Mr. Fox is a thief. He is a thief without a tail, thanks to the local farmers, but he is a fox with a family, friends, and big plans, in Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, adapted for the stage by Debbie Metzler. It’s onstage at Visalia’s Enchanted Playhouse through May 2.
Mr. Fox (Kelly Ventura) steals to feed his family, which angers the nasty farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean (Aaron Perez, Jacob Budz, and Zachary Ludden), who are determined to get rid of him by any means necessary, from guns to shovels to earthmovers. Mr. Fox does have support from local animals (mole, rabbits, and badgers), but his biggest assets are his ingenuity, tenacity, and digging ability.
The story has messages of tolerance (Just because he steals from you, you don’t have to take it personally), brotherhood (Even though they are different kinds of animals, they can work together to save each other), and perseverance (So they’re trying to starve you out! If you don’t give up, you’ll find a way out of this predicament).
Ventura has a grand time as the title character, with a deliberate delivery that hovers just to the left of William Shatner in the frequency of its pauses. He leads the other animals in a conga line of digging that is musically enhanced, even with the theme from Rocky. Brooke Santos plays the loving Mrs. Fox, glowing with confidence in her husband.
The make-up on the animal characters is spot on, recognizable as the creatures they represent, yet allowing a strong sense of humanity to resonate through the colors. The human farmers, on the other hand, are made to look as plastic as a music video for the band Primus. They lose their grip on human-ness so much that they actually become part of their excavating machines, wrapped in cardboard and controlling the scooping blades. As Captain Ahab became obsessed with the great white whale, their lives are consumed by the quest for the fox and his kind.
Allison Enos is dependable in her Enchanted Playhouse appearances, delivering confident performances. This time, she plays Mole, a vision-impaired animal whose cane impairs the safety of the other animals. Her dotty cheerfulness is reminiscent of Gilda Radner’s Emily Lutella.
The bi-level set sets the burrowing animals against the aboveground farmers in a world of textures. This show is a kid magnet, and school groups are encouraged to attend. The Enchanted Playhouse production is at the Main Street Theatre, 397 Main St. in Visalia. For more information, go to www.enchantedplayhouse.org or call (559) 739-4600.
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