Not that they perform them badly, but it is a trifle
Perhaps there just weren't enough boys in the playhouse's
repertory or conservatory programs to fit the assignments required in
Kevin Henkes' adaptation of Kevin Kling's children's fantasy. Or
maybe they just didn't want to portray mice -- since these creatures
comprise virtually all of the characters in the play.
Or, just maybe, they had gotten an advance look at the script and
decided they had a baseball or soccer game that took precedence.
Pity, since the show itself, despite its scriptural softness,
comes across as a good deal of fun once we realize we're not dealing
with "Tom Sawyer" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" here.
Director Donna Inglima allows her actors to release their inner
rodents and risk being "cute" as they project the rather skimpy Kling
/ Henkes story line about an precocious little girl mouse and her
excitable nature after receiving the title item from her grandmother.
This bubbling purse-onality gets her in warm water at school for
just enough time to create a modicum of conflict.
As little Lilly, Shea Gomez fits the character splendidly,
accelerating its outsized ego and attention-grabbing gusto to turn in
a winning performance. She's ably assisted in this regard by Justine
Kay and Catharine Bishop as her two best friends, known as Chester
and Wilson, respectively (part of the aforementioned gender bending).
Lilly's mother and father, Chelsea Vann and (again cross-gendered)
Victoria Dickerson, bring some parental restraint to the girl,
particularly in Lilly's strained relationship with her baby brother
Julius (Annabel Mae Pascall, another switcheroo). Her cousin Garland
is nicely presented by Amber Hernandez.
As the show's only true male adult authority, Oren Peleg as
Lilly's teacher, Mr. Slinger, contributes some of the crispest scenes
requiring depth of character and comes off as the most accomplished
performer in the cast. Sarah Flocken ages up to double as Lilly's
grandmother and a walk-on pregnant woman whose presence elicits
Completing the Laguna cast in various assignments are Kevin Short,
Sydne Ames, Taylor Hickok, Jordan Sandfer and Matt Stoner.
Set designer Wally Huntoon has created a wide playing area
bordered by trees and a large title banner, which is nicely lighted
by Michele Jones. Costume designer Julie Keen has fashioned a
eye-catching lineup of ears and tails for virtually every character
"Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" (try saying that three times fast)
should be a treat for the younger elements of the audience. The
5-year-old girl sitting next to me seemed to enjoy it immensely.
* TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.