Ah, childhood. It’s a time of play and a time of learning.
And thanks to Delia Ephron, John Forster,and Judith Kahan, it became a play
about learning in their musical How to Eat Like a Child. By the end of
the night, far more than one lesson will be taught to the audience – all
lessons by children eager to impart the valuable lessons they’ve learned to
help them deal with the new world they’re discovering. How to understand your
parents, how to beg for a dog, how to pretend to be sick, how to torture your
sister, how to do your homework, and so on and so forth. Including, of course,
how to eat like a child.
The genius of this particular production, held at Redmond
High School near Seattle, is that Director Misty Carson held the show in
the school’s cafeteria. Yes, it’s dinner theatre. The dinner is brought out in
servings by students, during which the cast members pause from the show but
remain in their roles as young grade-school children, joining us at the tables
where they ask us the sort of questions you get asked by eight-year-olds and
tell us tidbits about their lives.
Our table was visited by Lauren Funaro and Carly
Gilliland – “sisters” in 3rd and 4th grade
respectively who clearly have not forgotten how to act and talk exactly like
children half their age, capturing the right body language, uninhibited
curiosity, eagerness to talk about what they like and don’t like, making
observations older kids and adults may be reluctant to make, a propensity to
draw and write with crayons, and a little sisterly rival. Part of Misty
Carson’s idea was to give the actors the challenge of staying in character, and
Lauren and Carly couldn’t be parted from their characters for a moment despite
my occasional attempts to ask questions to break the illusion. The interplay
among our table’s two performers and the other audience members at our table
quickly became at least as important to the entertainment as the show itself,
and was certainly one of the more amusingly unique theatrical experiences you’re
likely to come across.
And then, of course, there’s the show itself. It is staged
all around the perimeter of the table settings, which often made for a bit of
work to keep up with the source of the spoken lines – locating the speaker and
then adjusting your position in your chair to view them. But overall the setup
worked pretty well, keeping people alert and making sure we were all close to
the action at some points.
A few of the highlights of the various scenes included:
How To Beg For A Dog – Darren Caulley and Thomas
Moore trying to convince their parents how easy it will be to keep a dog
with them promising to do all the upkeep, and hilarious physical comedian Kim
Cundy acting out the role of the dog with magnificent expressions and body
How To Stay Home From School – Survival skills of
playing sick by Akshika Patel, Audrey Geiger, and the
ever-amusing Kelsey Kinzer who really does seem to have a cold as she’s
always wiping her nose on her aqua-colored sweatshirt (to match her orange
sweatpants). It’s very important to only play up the sick part to the point
that you have to take a St. Joseph’s Aspirin. You don’t want to end up at the
doctor’s office getting a shot or something.
How To Practice The Violin – Our own Carly
Gilliland, who had just recently been asked to play the air guitar at our
table, proves to be a true guitarist when she gets bored playing a practice
song The Jolly Buccaneers on her violin (which is basically scales and
has nothing to do with pirates). She soon tosses the violin and imagines
herself as a rock star, jamming out in a big way on an electric guitar.
How To Wait – And our very own Lauren Funaro
teaches us how to melodramatically wait when parents are late picking her up
(later, at the table, mean older sister Carly will confide/rub it in that their
parents really did forget Lauren once).
How To Brag – Josh Oratz and Bridget Dillon
get caught up in a dueling duet over who has had the most stitches and other
badges of honor.
How To Put On Make-Up, with sisters using their
hapless brothers as guinea pigs, is quickly retaliated by the brothers with How
to Torture Your Sister.
How To Get Ready For Bed is a big one, from excuses
to staying awake to faking out that teeth brushing thing, and ends with
wholesale rebellion wherein the cast refuses to fall asleep (for as long as
Other soloists teach us how to argue that childhood should
be a time free from the work they’ll have to do the rest of their lives (Greg
Rocha), Caitin McCartney singing the praises of birthdays, and a
very ticked off Geena Pietromonaco
letting her parents have it after she’s sent to her room in Sayonara.
And, of course, there’s a lesson on How To Eat Like
A Child. In fact, there are several lessons, including Rachel Solomon
demonstrating some of the grosser ways you can play with your food, and Carly
and Lauren giving us several eating and drinking etiquette examples right at
our dinner table. Yes, that food was pretty much like school cafeteria food,
but the show made eating it highly enjoyable anyway.
Performed November 1 - 18, 2007.
Photos by Sonya Isherwood.
National Youth Theatre
~ Cast ~
Stage Director: Misty Carson
Lighting Design: Ruth Barton
Vocal Director: Andreww Schmidt
Music Director: Andrew Robertson
Stage Manager: Connor Hobbs
Props Design: Brittney Berthold